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County Commission: Will we see ads on ambulances?

Rick Patrick: Greene Publishing, Inc.

Imagine if you can, you are waiting at a traffic signal in downtown Madison and you hear the whine of an ambulance’s siren. You wait for the ambulance to pass by; and as it does you notice an advertisement plastered on the side of the emergency vehicle, “If you’ve been in an accident, call attorney XYZ.” This may sound far-fetched, but it could easily become a reality. During the meeting of the Madison County Board of County Commissioners on Wednesday, Aug. 23, the Commissioners heard a presentation from Taiylor Wennick, a representative from Medi-Ads. Medi-Ads is a company based in Atlanta, Ga. that specializes in placing advertisements on emergency vehicles such as ambulances and fire engines. Many communities around the nation have found this to be a way of helping to fund those emergency services. According to Wennick, Medi-Ads would sell the advertising and provide the materials to be placed either on the exterior of the ambulance in the form of a removable “wrap,” or in the form of signage on the inside of the ambulance. According to the proposed agreement presented to the Commissioners, the County would receive 30 percent of  all the “timely advertising revenue” of the ads placed in or on the vehicles. This could equate to $1,500 per month of potential revenue for external ads and $500-$700 per month for internal ads. The County would maintain control over the types of ads that could be placed on the vehicles. County Attorney Tom Reeves expressed concern over the proposed project stating that care would need to be taken that no “political” advertising be placed. Reeves suggested examining what other communities have done with similar projects and any legal issues that may have arisen. The use of any revenue from the ads would be limited to the Emergency Medical Services (EMS) department. Among the questions raised was whether the project would generate enough revenue to make it worthwhile. County Coordinator Brian Kauffman asked whether the funds might be used to fund a third shift for the EMS department. Commissioner Alston Kelley suggested that the revenue might offset some of the lost revenue encountered when patients don’t pay for ambulance services. The revenues could also be used to help pay the salaries of EMS workers. “I think it may be a good idea, but I’m not ready to approve it tonight. Perhaps we can table it until the next meeting,” said Commissioner Ronnie Moore. No action was taken, but the project will be examined further.

In other business, the Commissioners passed the consent agenda. This included the approval of the State Housing Initiatives Partnership (SHIP) annual report for the fiscal years 2014-2015, 2015-2016 and 2016-2017.

The commissioners also approved a budget amendment request for a Madison County Sheriff’s Office employee payout of $1,872.41.

In new business for the Board, a public hearing took place for an ordinance for a large scale land-use map amendment to change 64.784 acres from conservation to agriculture. The ordinance has been transmitted to the state, and no environmental concerns were raised. There was no public comment. The Board approved the amendment. The Board passed a declaration of a restrictive covenant relating to the Madison County Courthouse Annex parking lot.

The Board approved a $3,950 grant for the Tourist Development Council (TDC) to purchase a blower to help keep Four Freedoms Park clean. The Board also approved a $1,000 TDC grant to help promote the “Tellabration” event at O’Toole’s Herb Farm. The Board also approved a change in the use of funds for the Cattle Battle from advertising to cover the cost of insurance and judges for the event.

There was discussion regarding switching liability insurance providers from Brown and Brown PRIA to the Florida Association of Counties Trust/Florida League of Cities. After hearing proposals from both, the Commissioners voted to remain with Brown and Brown.

The Board passed an Interlocal agreement between Madison County and the Town of Lee for floodplain management. The County has already been providing floodplain management to the Town of Lee.

The Board approved the use of fire assessment funds for a 50/50 grant for the Cherry Lake Volunteer Fire Department. The grant is through the Florida Forestry Department.

Solid Waste Department Manager Jerome Wyche updated the Commissioners on the traffic accident in which a county vehicle was involved. The accident resulted in a total loss of the grapple truck involved in the accident. In a turn for the better, the County had received a payment of approximately $80,000 for the vehicle. This amount is significantly more than the county had previously considered the vehicle to be worth. Commissioner Kelley noted that the wreck reinforces the need for a traffic light in that area of US Hwy. 90.

The next meeting of the Board of County Commissioners will take place on Wednesday, Sept. 13, at 9 a.m. at the Board Meeting Room in the Courthouse Annex at 229 SW Pinckney St., in Madison. There will also be a public hearing regarding the proposed fire and solid waste assessments on Tuesday, Sept. 12, at 6 p.m. in the Madison County Courthouse.

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