Unicoi County commission authorizes local ambulance service

Sue Guinn Legg • Nov 25, 2019 at 9:28 PM

ERWIN — The Unicoi County Commission will move forward with the establishment of a county ambulance service.

In back-to-back unanimous votes on Monday, the commission authorized the establishment of a county emergency medical response service to be operational by July 1, and exploration of the creation of corporation to oversee the service.

Commissioner John Moseley, who chairs the commission’s Ambulance Committee, said the committee will meet next week to discuss the corporation and bring a recommendation back to full commission at its next meeting, on Dec. 16.

Several commissioners at Monday’s meeting expressed interest in creating the corporation in order to provide a separate board of directors to manage the new EMS service. Mosley said that ideally the corporation would include the towns of Erwin and Unicoi.

Mayor Garland “Bubba” Evely and County Attorney Doug Shults were authorized to begin exploring the corporation’s formation and will schedule meetings with the two towns, Mosley said.

Monday’s decision to establish the service came on the heels of financial reports that show the Washington County EMS station operating in Unicoi County under a temporary service agreement is now meeting expenses with a small a net gain in revenues over expenses.

The county entered the agreement with Washington County for a one-time allocation of $100,000 in startup cost and with the understanding the temporary service was intended to help Unicoi County establish its own service. Financial statements from the agreement’s July 15 effective date through Oct. 31, show a net gain of approximately $28,000.

The county previously paid more $300,000 annually to contract ambulance service from private provider. Work to establish a publicly owned service began in early 2017 in response to slow response times and other contract performance issues.

In other business, the commission voted to allocate $10,050 from the county’s general fund for installation of a new emergency communications tower in Flag Pond, and $9,050 from funds received from the sale of the former Unicoi County Memorial Hospital to build a tower in the Martin’s Creek area.

Commissioner Todd Wilcox, who chairs the commission’s Public Safety Committee, said the Martin’s Creek tower will serve the town of Erwin where EMS communications originate, which qualifies the tower for the use of hospital funds as a community health need.