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Erwin board requests revisions of proposed inter-local EMS agreement

Sue Guinn Legg • Jan 14, 2020 at 7:51 AM

ERWIN — With the town of Unicoi’s participation in a proposal for inter-local control of Unicoi County’s new ambulance service still unknown, Erwin’s Board of Mayor and Aldermen had two alternate resolutions to consider Monday.

Drafted by County Attorney Doug Shults, the alternate resolutions specified funding formulas and governing board appointments with and without the town of Unicoi.

With Unicoi in the lineup with the town of Erwin and Unicoi County, financial commitment to the service would follow the same population-based formula set out by state law for multiple local governments sharing in county-wide economic development efforts.

Under that formula and the first of the two alternate resolutions presented for the Erwin board’s consideration, the county would cover 65% of the cost of the new service, Erwin just over 21% and Unicoi just over 12%.

The second proposal without Unicoi in the partnership divided the financial responsibility for the town’s population between the county, at just 71 percent, and Erwin, at just over 28 percent.

Because of a more than $440,000 grant secured by the town of Erwin and handed over to the county for the purchase of ambulances, Erwin would be exempt from two years of financial obligation to the new service with or without Unicoi’s participation.

With Unicoi’s participation, each of the three governments has two representatives on the EMS board of directors. Without Unicoi, Erwin and Unicoi County would each have three members on the board.

Erwin Town Attorney Thomas Seeley told the board both of alternate agreements were “drafts” or “jumping-off points” for their consideration. With Unicoi’s decision on whether it will participate expected to come in the next couple of weeks, Seeley said the terms of one or the other of the alternate resolutions can be revised for a final vote by their next meeting Jan. 27.

The financial terms of the resolutions dominated the discussion by Erwin board members who quickly set out three requests for revisions:

• A stipulation that Unicoi County will cover the $145,400 grant match needed for the purchase of the ambulances.

• In the event Unicoi does not participate, Unicoi County will assume responsibility for that town’s entire population-based funding allotment, leaving Erwin with just over 21 percent of the funding responsibility with or without Unicoi.

- A two-year time limit on the inter-local agreement, after which the terms will be renegotiated.

The board voted unanimously to have Seeley negotiate the town’s terms with the county.

The Unicoi Board of Mayor and Aldermen will consider the proposed agreement at its next meeting Tuesday, Jan. 21. The County Commission Ambulance Committee, which is working to finalize plans for the new service in advance of the July 1 expiration of its temporary service agreement with the Washington County/Johnson City EMS, is scheduled to meet Thursday, Jan. 23.

In other business on Monday, the board voted in favor of a redesign for the current I-26 billboard advertising downtown Erwin’s “antique district,” with several board members requesting a designation more reflective of the downtown’s variety of antique and specialty shops.

The board also voted to accept the town’s annual audit report that included no findings for needed improvement and noted two prior year findings had been corrected.

Curtis Morrison with the auditing firm Rodefer Moss and Co. told the board it was a good report. Morrison noted while the report includes a $9,800 net shortfall, the board had wisely budgeted or a $50,000 shortfall in the event some surplus equipment did not sell.

“You budgeted correctly. I don’t get to say that often,” Morrison said.