Ambulance service looks to move offices to Unicoi County Sheriff Department's old space

Brad Hicks • Jan 18, 2014 at 6:37 PM

ERWIN — In March, the Unicoi County Sheriff’s Department relocated its administrative offices from downtown Erwin to the Unicoi County Jail Annex on Jackson Love Highway.

Now, the county’s ambulance service provider is looking to do just the opposite — MedicOne Medical Response is hoping to move its local billing and administration areas from their location at the Jail Annex to space in downtown Erwin previously utilized by the sheriff’s department.

This Wednesday, a joint meeting of the Ambulance Committee and the Building and Grounds Committee will be held to discuss the proposed move.

County Mayor Greg Lynch said MedicOne uses two trailers at the annex, one of which serves as living quarters for the ambulance crew and another that serves as the company’s billing and administrative office.

Lynch said the trailers were brought in several years ago to be used by one of the county’s prior ambulance providers. He said the trailer that serves as the living quarters area has recently begun to experience its share of problems.

“When we put those trailers in, we knew there was only a life of so many years,” Lynch said. “They were used trailers, and we were kind of scrambling to get a place for an ambulance crew and it was the best option at the time.”

There were problems with the floor tiles in the living quarters. As MedicOne officials were in the process of replacing them, the trailer began to experience sewage backup issues, Lynch said. He also said the trailer leaks during rainfalls, and the cost to fix the building is likely greater than its value.

“It’s fairly contaminated now,” Lynch said.

This has led MedicOne to move one of its campers onto the site to serve as a makeshift living quarters area. Lynch said representatives with MedicOne approached the county about the possibility of moving its living quarters into the trailer it currently uses for administrative purposes and moving the administrative area to the offices once used by the sheriff’s department.

Those offices were relocated to the annex last year due to flooding at the downtown location caused by a leaky roof and inmates in the Unicoi County Jail, located directly above the offices, flooding sinks and commodes. The county’s 911 center and the sheriff’s department’s investigative offices remain in downtown Erwin, but are set to be relocated to the Jail Annex in the coming months.

Lynch said the Unicoi County Jail in downtown Erwin was recently re-roofed, which should solve much of the water issue.

“Of course, it seems odd to move someone into a building that someone else couldn’t use, and I know it does, but I think it’s the best option right now, and I think that the ambulance service is willing to do it,” Lynch said. “My position is to let them use it.”

Lynch said county officials have had some questions on what the county’s part of the move should be, as MedicOne is a private ambulance company. He also said that there have been previous discussions of MedicOne constructing its own site in Unicoi County on property not owned by the county. Lynch said this could still happen, if the company renegotiates its contract with the county once the current contract expires.

“I think this would be a good bridge to that point,” Lynch said of the proposed move.

Any action taken by the Building and Grounds Committee must be approved by the County Commission before becoming effective. Lynch the proposed move will likely be considered at the commission’s Jan. 27 meeting.

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