HAMLET — The city has renewed its contract with Hamlet Fire and Emergency Medical Services, marking the first renewal since the rescue squad split from the fire department two years ago.
The city kept one significant portion of the contract intact and changed two others, which will increase expenses the unit itself must pay. Under the new two-year contract, the rescue squad will be reponsible for 50 percent of its fuel costs, reducing the city’s investment in fuel by half.
Until this year, the city had also insured the ambulances assigned to the squad, but the new contract signs over the titles for the vehicles to the squad — which will have to pay for its own insurance.
The city will continue to pay the salaries and benefits for the unit’s paramedics — $130,000 to $140,000 per year, according to City Administrator Jonathan Blanton — but the squad will repay 50 percent of that at the end of each fiscal year.
Although it shares space with the Hamlet Fire Department, the rescue squad is an independent nonprofit organization administered by Assistant Fire Chief Richard Lassiter, who is president of its board of directors.
Blanton and Mayor Bill Bayless advise the board but do not vote on policy or expenditures.
“That way, you don’t have one person in control of both (the Fire Department) and the fire and rescue squad,” Blanton said Monday.
Last week, former Hamlet Fire Chief David Allen Knight pleaded guilty in Superior Court to two felony counts of embezzlement committed when he was chief of both the Hamlet Fire Department and the rescue squad.
Knight will have to repay more than $25,000 to Hamlet Fire and Emergency Medical Services and perform community service after taking a plea deal.
Knight was arrested last November, following a nearly 20-month investigation by the N.C. State Bureau of Investigation, which found improper purchases of gas, meals, alcohol and travel to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina .
Reach Christine Carroll at 910-817-2673 or [email protected]