Unicoi County commission to begin discussion of a new site for ambulance station

Sue Guinn Legg • Jul 22, 2019 at 11:09 PM

ERWIN — The Unicoi County Commission voted Monday to continue negotiations for a temporary lease of the county’s current ambulance station on North Main Avenue and open discussions of a new location for the station adjacent to the former Unicoi County Memorial Hospital.

With alderman John Mosley absent, the commission approved both measures by voice votes with no commissioners opposed.

County Attorney Doug Shults recommended the continued negotiation of the lease on the current ambulance station site, telling the commissioners the lease proposal up for their consideration Monday evening had been submitted only six hours prior to their meeting.

Shults said the proposal included several items that were counter to the county’s request for revisions in a prior lease offer, including stipulations that would bring the total cost of the lease to approximately $3,500 per month.

Shults said he and Mayor Garland “Bubba” Evely told the property owner, “basically, we did not believe the county would approve that” amount.

Noting several other stipulations that were unfavorable to the county, Shults said, “This is what was handed to us. This is not what we would what we would present to you with any recommendation.”

The commission voted to allow Shults and Evely to continue negotiating with the property owner and to table a vote on the lease until the commission’s next specially called meeting Aug. 6.

The commission voted later in Monday’s meeting to request Unicoi County Memorial Hospital Board Chairman Roland Bailey discuss with the board the possibility of the county’s lease of the maintenance building and two adjoining residential suites located adjacent to the former hospital for use as a new ambulance station. The measure was likewise approved by a voice vote with no commissioners opposed.

In other business, the board voted to allow the newly organized Erwin Rescue Squad to provide first responder services in the county on the conditions they meet emergency medical service standards and their service is also approved by the Washington County/Johnson City EMS, which is now also serving as Unicoi County’s ambulance provider.

Commissioner Todd Wilcox, who chairs the commission’s Public Safety Committee, said the nonprofit volunteer squad has received its charter and is currently conducting fundraising to get up and going.

The commission also approved a new “cafeteria plan” with “health flexible” and “dependent care” spending accounts for county employees.

Evely said the accounts will come at no cost to the county and will be a benefit that county employees can draw from for out-of-pocket medical costs, child care and other specified expenses.

The commission also tabled until its next meeting consideration of an additional expenditure that would allow four remaining MedicOne employees to retain the higher pay rate they received from MedicOne compared to the pay rate provided by Washington County/Johnson City EMS.

The measure was tabled after County Clerk Mitzi Bowen told the commissioners auditors would flag their approval of an expenditure for which exact pay rates and an exact total cost were unknown.