Erwin board OKs interlocal ambulance service concept, tables vote on connector trail

Sue Guinn Legg • Updated Dec 9, 2019 at 9:43 PM

ERWIN — The Erwin Board of Mayor and Aldermen on Monday unanimously approved a proposal to join Unicoi County in consideration of an interlocal ambulance service.

Presented to board on the request of the County Commission’s Ambulance Committee, the interlocal agreement has not yet been drafted and was approved by the board in concept only.

The committee voted Friday to recommend the full County Commission incorporate the service as a nonprofit organization to be governed by an independent board of directors made up of representatives of the county and towns of Erwin and Unicoi.

Erwin Mayor Doris Hensley told the board Monday the committee is seeking a go-ahead from both towns indicating their willingness to participate before taking the recommendation back for a vote by the full commission.

Hensley said the interlocal agreement will not require any financial contribution from Erwin for at least two years. And after two years, she said, the committee is hopeful the service will be self-sufficient. “They’re in the black now,” she said.

The proposal will be presented to the Unicoi Board of Mayor and Aldermen on Monday, Dec. 16, and will go back to the County Commission for discussion later the same evening.

Erwin Vice Mayor Mark Lafever, who previously voted against a failed attempt to establish a local ambulance service operated by the town, asked Town Attorney Tom Seeley III for an opinion on the legal commitment attached to the board’s Monday vote on the agreement.

Seeley responded, “None at this point, other than you are supportive of the concept.”

Alderman Gary Chandler made the motion to approve the agreement “in concept” and the board approved the measure by a voice vote with none opposed.

In other business, the board tabled a vote on a master plan for a pedestrian and bike trail to connect the Erwin Linear Trail to the Pinnacle Fire Tower Trail in Unicoi.

Designed by the firm CDM Smith of Knoxville with input from the two towns, the plan calls for the approximate 4.5-mile trail to follow Tenn. Highway 107 rather than a more rural route along Zane Whitson Road that was previously considered as an alternate route for the trail.

While there is currently no funding available for the trail’s construction, a representative with CDM Smith told both town boards in September the master plan can be used to leverage grant funding to build the trail in phases over a period of years.

The County Commission has opted out of the connector trail project with a 2018 vote to not allocate any grant match funding for development of the master plan and a more vote adopting a resolution not to support the trail’s construction.

Lafever made the motion to table a vote on the master plan until the Unicoi Board of Mayor and Aldermen considers the plan at its Dec. 16 meeting.

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