Ground work begins on new Unicoi County ambulance service

Sue Guinn Legg • Jan 24, 2020 at 5:38 PM

ERWIN — A Joint Ambulance Committee made up of representatives of Unicoi County and towns of Unicoi and Erwin has begun laying the groundwork for the county’s new inter-local ambulance service.

On the recommendation of County Attorney Doug Shults and Washington County/Johnson City EMS Director Dan Wheeley, committee members on Thursday agreed to begin with appointment of board members to govern the new nonprofit service.

The board appointments are on the agendas of both the town of Erwin Board of Mayor and Aldermen and the County Commission on Monday.

The two government bodies and the Unicoi Board of Mayor and Aldermen will each appoint two members to the new nine-member board, which will also include an at-large member nominated by the county mayor, a medical director and Unicoi County Hospital Administrator Eric Carroll.

Shults said the next steps will be for the three governments to sign a formal agreement to incorporate, followed by online filing for incorporation and an organizational meeting to be conducted within five days of the filing.

Wheeley said the new board will have several other immediate issues to address, including the establishment of bylaws and policies and the selection of a medical director.

Wheeley said the joint committee will continue to oversee the Washington County/Johnson City EMS service in Unicoi County until its one-year service agreement with Unicoi County expires in July.

County Commission Chairman Loren Thomas said the joint committee and board of directors for the new service should meet jointly until the new service begins operations in order to keep county officials apprised of all costs.

“The county is paying most of this,” Thomas said.

In a monthly update on Unicoi County service operations by Washington County/Johnson City EMS, Director Adam Copas said call volumes continued to rise through December, when calls for service generally decline. Copas attributed the increase to the community’s growing familiarity and confidence in the service.

Other the past 30 days, he said the service had responded to 324 calls, of which 295 calls, or 3% were for facility transports for which payment collections are more reliable. The average response time was nine minutes and 17 seconds. The longest included up to 12 to 15 minutes on extreme north and south ends of the county.

For the first half of the one-year service agreement, Wheeley said revenues had exceeded expenditures by $38,848.

“If it stays that way,” Wheeley said, the county could expect to end the year in July with a net of $72,000, which he recommended be set aside for future equipment and ambulance purchases.

Wheeley said the overall financial indicators for the six-month period were good with the exception of depreciation of equipment. “It’s not cash but will show up in your financials going forward and you all need to keep that in mind,” he said.

Unicoi Town Attorney Lois Shuts-Davis said the town had received good news from state Sen. Rusty Crowe that grant funding for an additional ambulance is available.

County Commissioner and Committee Chairman John Mosley said it is everyone’s goal to eventually have additional EMS stations set up on the north and south ends of the county.

The next meeting of Unicoi Board of Mayor and Aldermen, at which board members for the nw ambulance service could be appointed, is scheduled for the third week of February. The joint committee is scheduled to meet again on Feb. 5.

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