Grant Helferich, EMS director, discussed his proposal to turn some of the past due accounts over to a collection agency

The Butler County EMS is looking for methods to collect more of its past due debt.

Grant Helferich, EMS director, talked to the Butler County Commission about his proposal to turn some of the accounts over to a collection agency.

He said he has been working with the collection agencies who proposed their services to make sure they have a clear understanding of what they were going to do because he said he knows on some accounts, one was a minimum wage person and another was unemployed, so garnishing their paychecks would not be beneficial.

"Basically, we still want to go through with it, but deal with the collection agencies so before they send it to the attorney we want to review the account to see if they have any background on the account," Helferich said.

He told the commissioners they could approve the Standard Operating Procedure that would allow them after the normal 90-day process of sending out letters to turn accounts over to collections.

"I think it would be good for us to at least try it for a while," he said. "If we're losing money on this or it's not paying off I can come back and we can take this out of the SOP or go back to the way we were before."

Currently, the office staff send out letters but he said they do not have time to make phone calls.

With the new procedure they will still work internally for 90 days to collect accounts and send them a final collection notice to come up with a payment plan within two weeks. Then if they are an in-state resident, they will send the account to the collection agency and state Setoff Program. If they are out of state, they will go to the collection agency.

He said accounts more than two years old are not as high a priority.

Commissioner Peggy Palmer asked how many accounts they had to collect.

Helferich said in October they had $218,000 in private pay and those over 120 days that would go to collections totaled about $112,000.

"Our private pay debts have gone up," he said. "We saw about a $50,000 increase in private pay bad debts through the first six months of last year."

He said they have seen some returns from that final collection-type letter.

Palmer suggested if staff could call even five accounts a day it might help collect.

"The follow-ups and collections can take a lot more time than the initial billings," Helferich said. "The follow-ups and tracking people down, it's hard to do."

Commissioner Ed Myers liked keeping the accounts open to review them.

In addition to the amount owed, if the account is sent to an attorney, there is an additional $100 added to the bill, which comes back to the county to pay for the attorney. Then the collection agency takes 50 percent of what is collected.

The commission unanimously approved the SOP.

In other business, the commission:

• approved allowing the emergency communications director to pay $32,490 for CAD software maintenance for 2014.

Palmer asked if this was an agreed upon amount or if it had gone up.

Chris Davis, communications director, said it was in the original purchase agreement.

Palmer also asked what maintenance had been done in the last year with this agreement.

Davis said in the last year things went pretty smoothly, but they did have a couple of technical support issues. In 2014, he said the agreement includes version upgrades which they will have to do and with this there will not be any additional cost.

"Something is wrong with this picture," Palmer said. "We never use them and we pay so much for them. I understand your concerns on maintenance."

"When we talk about a structure like this it is so mission critical," Davis said. "If CAD goes down it becomes nightmarish downstairs (in dispatch). "Having this, we can call them and go right to the top of their priority list and they are very good."

• approved the purchase of eight 2013 Dodge Charger patrol vehicles and one 2014 Dodge Charger patrol vehicle from Davis Moore in Wichita.

Undersheriff Tony Wilhite said they were able to get the 2013s at a reduced rate and they gave them the 2013 rate for the 2014 vehicle. The total cost was $207,770, which was a savings of $19,130.

• approved a conditional acceptance of improvements to SW Diamond Road related to the retail development at the southwest corner of SW Diamond Road and US 400 west of Augusta. Tractor Supply had put in 400 to 500 feet of road along the east frontage. For the project, Tractor Supply had to put up a 100 percent bond and now that it is completed they are releasing that bond and replacing it with a $5,000 check to the county to make sure the permanent seeding was completed.

• approved Public Works to solicit bids for sign material for signs and approximately 700 posts.

• approved the bid from J&A Traffic Products for sign posts totaling $6,315.

• approved payment for the right-of-way easements for planned road and bridge construction projects in Butler County totaling $6,700 plus fence relocation.

• approved wind farm grant funding requests including $15,000 for the Coutts Museum of Art, $6,565 for Wheat State Manor, $4,000 for First United Methodist Church, $3,800 for Tour Butler and $15,524 for Flint Hills Services. They were able to fully fund all of the requests. The funding is only given after the projects are completed.

Julie Clements can be reached at