UNICOI, Tenn. (WJHL) – The Town of Unicoi Board of Mayor and Alderman unanimously approved a measure at its Tuesday meeting that stipulates the terms for an interlocal agreement to establish a Unicoi County ambulance service.
Three options were presented to the board.
The first is the measure which was approved by the board, stipulating a financial formula set forth by the state, based on population. The resolution agreed upon dictates that the Town of Unicoi will fund 12.95 percent of the county-run EMS budget. To balance the budget, the Town of Erwin will contribute 21.74 percent, and the county will offer 65.31 percent.
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This resolution option was put into motion by Alderwoman Kathy Bullen, who says her background in healthcare offers a certain perspective regarding the need for an ambulance service in the county.
“We all, as citizens, need to know that an ambulance is going to show up when we need it and we have a history in this county of not having that dependable service. We had to go to another plan,” Bullen told News Channel 11 Tuesday.
The resolution also says that the Town of Erwin will not be contributing to the fund for the first two years because the body secured a State of Tennessee Community Development Block Grant for the purpose of purchasing ambulances.
Unicoi County commissioners present at the Tuesday meeting confirmed that the county will be assuming the funding for the first two years of the agreement.
“Erwin did take the lead in establishing a service, a stop-gap service for us, through Washington County and their service has been wonderful,” Bullen said.
“It has met needs, it has been right on time, they’ve done a great job for us and so, not being able to bid out a private company is just not going to be profitable for a private company and a rural county like we have,” Bullen added. “It’s just not, so we’re going to have to create one for ourselves, so when I went for option one, I felt like it was the best option, largely because in two years, we can go back to the table.”
The resolution approved also stipulates that a nine-party board of directors will be set up to run the EMS service. Among the nine will be two members of each body of government within Unicoi County.
After the two year agreement, the terms will be renegotiated by all three governments.
“You know, we can re-look at things. Where are we, are we growing, has our demand increased, has the demand decreased? I just think it gives us that option to renegotiate, reconsider, what do we want to do, which way do we want to go?” Bullen said. “And to commit, to me, committing is just a no-brainer, we have to do this for our citizens and nothing is better for our citizens than when the Town of Erwin, the Town of Unicoi and the county can all come together in the same place to do something for its citizens. When you help one, you help them all.”
The second option proposed simply added to the first option by dictating a set amount of money the town would have to pay to the fund instead of just a percentage. That sum would have been $28,340 for the 2020-2021 fiscal year.
The third option was the simplest of all three possible options on the table. It stated that the Town of Unicoi grants permission to the county to start the ambulance service funded by the interlocal agreement.
The Unicoi County Commission Ambulance Committee is set to meet Thursday, Jan. 23.
The body is expected to finalize plans for the new ambulance service before the Unicoi County Commission meeting on Jan. 27.