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Unicoi County Commission tables ambulance station land purchase, moves ahead with request for private service bids

Sue Guinn Legg • Apr 23, 2018 at 9:49 PM

ERWIN — The Unicoi County Commission on Monday tabled its discussion of a land purchase for construction of a new ambulance station in order to continue its search for property and followed up with a vote to move ahead with a request for two sets of bids for service from contracted ambulance service providers both with and without a station.

Commissioner Ken Garland made a motion to table approval for the request for bids as well, saying the county was asking for proposals for service with a station that it does not have.

Commissioner Loren Thomas seconded Garland’s motion, saying he had only received the request for proposals at the start of Monday’s meeting and had not had time to review it.

Garland withdrew the motion after Commissioner Gene Wilson said the commission would have land for the station before the new ambulance contract becomes effective in April 2019. Commission Chairwoman Marie Rice the county has recently been made aware of several more pieces of property available for purchase.

Thomas continued his opposition by voting against releasing the request for proposals for advertisement.

Mayor Greg Lynch said the intent of commission’s Ambulance Committee, which drafted the request for proposals, was to put the request out for bids “to test the waters” and, for budgeting purposes, to have the bids returned before the end the fiscal year.

The vote to advertise for bids also came against the advice of the director of the county’s current ambulance service provider, who told the commission the request includes too many options that companies will recognize as a fishing trip and possibly avoid.

Jimmy Erwin, who took over as director MedicOne Medical Response the midst of the county’s 18-month struggle to improve response times, said, “Once you put this out the demographics change, they’re not locked in.”

Erwin also pointed to a second alternate request included in the request for proposals that asks companies to submit bids on the provision of two 24-hour advance life support ambulances and one 24-hour basic life support ambulance, as well bids on two 24-hour advance life support ambulances and one 12-hour basic life support unit.

“That option on the third truck should have never been in there. This needs to be very specific,” Erwin said. “The county wants the cheapest it can get and that’s what you’ve got.”

Wilson countered saying the county has a $130,000 annual contract with MedicOne, which was the only company to respond to the county’s last request for bids, because $130,000 was the amount MedicOne bid.

Prior to tabling the land purchase discussion, the commission instructed its Building and Grounds Committee to conduct a study of all the available properties and bring a recommendation back to commission.

Email Sue Guinn Legg at slegg@johnsoncitypress.com. Follow her on Twitter @sueleggjcpress. Like her on Facebook at facebook.com/sueleggjcpress.

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