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Erwin enters county ambulance agreement with 60-day opt-out provision

Sue Guinn Legg • Mar 25, 2019 at 11:11 PM

ERWIN — The Erwin Board of Mayor and Aldermen voted unanimously Monday to enter an ambulance service agreement with Unicoi County that allows the county to move forward with a pending contract with MedicOne Medical Response and allows the town to opt out of the agreement with 60 days’ notice.

The withdrawal notice was proposed by the county following a joint meeting of the board and Unicoi County commissioners Thursday and replaced a 10-day notice previously proposed by the town and a 90-day notice previously proposed by the county.

Because the majority of Unicoi County ambulance calls are made within the town, including Medicaid-reimbursed transport calls for four nursing homes, the Erwin board’s vote to enter the agreement was considered a key to retaining MedicOne as the county’s contracted service provider.

MedicOne’s performance and ability to provide enough staff and ambulances to meet the county’s needs have been under scrutiny for more than two years and in 2017 resulted in the creation of a joint town and county task force that explored the possibility of creating a locally operated service.

While the local service did not come to fruition, Erwin Town Attorney Tom Seeley told the commissioners last week that Erwin Mayor Doris Hensley continues to have “legitimate concerns” about MedicOne’s performance.

Hensley told the board in February that discussions had been initiated on the possibility of the Washington County/Johnson City Emergency Medical Service extending its service to Erwin and that Washington County Mayor Joe Grandy was gathering more information on the cost.

Hensley told the Johnson City Press on Monday she has not had any further discussions with Grandy due to scheduling conflicts.

A lawsuit alleging the means by which the county advertised for requests for proposals on the ambulance contract was flawed is also pending. Chancellor John Rambo is expected to rule on the county’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit by Friday.

In other business Monday, the board voted to reject a $30,000 grant for construction of an outdoor fitness court after projected costs on the project came in at approximately $140,000, or $50,000 more than the town budgeted.

<p><em>Email Sue Guinn Legg at <a href="mailto:[email protected]" target="_blank">[email protected]</a>. Follow her on&nbsp;<a href="http://www.twitter.com/sueleggjcpress" target="_blank">Twitter @sueleggjcpress</a>. Like her on Facebook at <a href="/facebook.com/sueleggjcpress" target="_blank">facebook.com/sueleggjcpress</a>.</em></p>

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