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Unicoi committee requests more information on ambulance agreement

Sue Guinn Legg • Updated Jan 9, 2020 at 4:32 PM

UNICOI — Unicoi County leaders’ request for an expedited decision on the town of Unicoi’s participation in an agreement for a locally controlled ambulance service will go unanswered for at least a couple more weeks.

A Wednesday meeting of the town’s Ambulance Committee concluded with aldermen’s requests for more details about the proposed agreement. A joint meeting of county’s Ambulance Committee and representatives of both Unicoi and town of Erwin is scheduled for today.

While the Erwin has approved “in concept” a proposed inter-local agreement through which the three government entities would share the administration and financial responsibility for the service, the county is without a decision from the Unicoi Board of Mayor and Aldermen needed to finalize the agreement.

In lieu of a recommendation on the proposed agreement, Unicoi’s Ambulance Committee on Wednesday requested additional information including:

• A backup plan for the ambulance service if the locally controlled service fails within its first one or two years.

• A formal business plan beyond the temporary one-year service agreement under which Washington County-Johnson City Emergency Medical Services is currently serving the county.

• The estimated costs of securing ambulance service for the town of Unicoi from EMS agencies in Washington and Carter counties.

Unicoi Town Recorder Debbie Kessler said the issue would be addressed again at the Board of Mayor and Aldermen’s Jan. 21 meeting.

Wednesday’s committee meeting also included a continuation of the heated exchange of words that marred the Unicoi board’s Dec. 16 meeting.

The disruption came at the end of the committee meeting when one of a group of nearly two dozen citizens in attendance asked if the committee was “going to leave the town hanging” without a decision on the ambulance service.

Mayor Johnny Lynch called the man out of order, saying the committee would not take any questions or citizen comments.

The man who spoke then raised his voice, accusing Lynch of wasting town funds, and was escorted out of the room by a Sheriff’s Department officer.

December’s meeting included an equally loud exchange of words that erupted after Lynch read a mayoral proclamation chastising two unnamed citizens for their treatment of a woman who Lynch said was treated discourteously at the close of the board’s November meeting.

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