Unicoi County enters ambulance service agreement with Washington County EMS

Sue Guinn Legg • Jun 14, 2019 at 9:46 PM

ERWIN — Unicoi County commissioners approved a one-year interlocal service agreement with the Washington County/Johnson City Emergency Medical Service Friday night, a deal intended to put the county on track to establish its own ambulance service.

Hammered out in several weeks of negotiations with the Washington County agency, the agreement was unanimously approved by Unicoi County’s nine commissioners in a special called meeting.

The agreement will become effective on July 1; at that time, technicians and paramedics currently employed in Unicoi County by MedicOne Medical Response will become temporary employees of Washington County/Johnson City EMS. An introductory staff meeting with the crew and their new employer is scheduled for next week.

The agreement will provide the county with two advanced life support ambulances 24 hours daily, seven days a week, and one basic life support ambulance 10 hours daily for five days a week. The total cost to Unicoi County will be $218,000.

Washington County/Johnso City EMS Executive Director Dan Wheely told the commission in May that $100,000 of the total will be needed upfront for start up expenses and that very little revenue will be generated for the first several months.

County Commissioner John Mosley, who chairs the commission’s Ambulance Committee, said Friday the county will monitor revenues generated over the next five to six months before deciding whether to proceed with the creation of a county ambulance service or to put the service back out for bid to private providers.

He said the service will remain housed at the current MedicOne Station at Exit 36 of Interstate 26 for the time being, as the county continues to explore a lease on space for a station available at the former Unicoi County Memorial Hospital property.

County Mayor Garland Evely told the commission Friday the town of Erwin has requested the transfer of a $440,000 grant awarded to the town for the purchase of two ambulances to the county and the grantors have indicated they want to see some progress toward creation of a local service.

Evely said Friday’s approval of the interlocal agreement with Washington County should help with that qualification.