Local News

Nov 14, 2013 5:23 PM by Andrew Ellison - aellison@kristv.com

Mathis Short on Money, E.M.S. Says It's a Safety Issue

CORPUS CHRISTI - Financial troubles for the city of Mathis are causing all departments to cut costs, and that's making it tough for their Emergency Services Department.

The employees in that department say it's a serious safety issue.

The financial issues are so bad, that E.M.S. is down to just one running ambulance.

The key word is "running" because they do have other ambulances, but State law requires that an ambulance be stocked with a certain amount of medical supplies to legally run.

So, the department has had to take supplies from the other trucks, just so one truck can be stocked enough to legally run.

Daniel Sem is one of the department employees who's concerned.

"We are unable to do our job safely, efficiently, and effectively with the current situation that's going on up there," he says.

He's talking about how the city can't pay its vendors, meaning E.M.S. can't get needed supplies.

The city says it's in financial trouble because of a number of things, including employee turnover and bad book-keeping, but the main problem is mis-reporting debt.

For some reason, for the past few years, the city says they've been giving the San Patricio County Tax Collector bad information about how much debt the city actually as. In fact, they've been under-reporting it.

That means that the city has been setting a tax rate that is too low to actually meet their financial needs.

Mayor Ciri Villarreal says it's hurt them.

"And by doing that, what we were doing was taking revenue away from the city," he says.

E.M.S. employees say whatever the reason, it's a safety issue.

"Often times you get a big car accident or something, you need all three trucks or at least two trucks over there, because the next nearest ambulances are either in Orange Grove if they're there, or way over in Beeville, or down in Odem. So, its a 20, 30 minute response," Sem says.

But the mayor says every department is having to make sacrifices, and says that one running truck is enough.

"It's not the doom and gloom that they're painting to you because of the fact that there's other E.M.S. entities around us," Villarreal says.

Sem says that's just not accurate.

"If people think this only effects Mathis, they're wrong. We cover about a 127 square mile coverage area for Mathis, Lake City, Lakeside, Lake Corpus Christi area," he says.

The city had hired consultants to audit their books for the last few years to see where they went wrong.

They hope they can right the ship as soon as possible.

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