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Fayette County Board discusses ambulance service issues

Tuesday, November 14 night’s Fayette County Board meeting had a vigorous discussion on the first item of New Business, the possible approval of a County Ambulance contract. Fayette County does not currently have a contract for ambulance services. An approval would have given the contract to Rural Med EMS Services Fayette County. The county coverage is 720 square miles. There are currently two dispatchers, one for the City (City Police) and the other for the County (Sheriff’s Office) both of which receive the 911 calls. These calls are often critical, such as someone falling on their floor but needing trained assistance to get up, but not necessarily life-threatening. Ambulance service also provides transfer services between medical facilities in addition to life support.

Board member Merrell Collins stated that “One company is not going to solve the problem….for the person in need.” He also opined that life threatening calls may be at risk “until we change the way we do business”. Collins also said he wished that “taking advantage of all the technology” would help the problem. Another Board member Joe Wells, a resident of Loudon and one of Loudon’s District One Representatives, a township in the northeast fringes of Fayette County said, “I’ve experienced it,” (an example of the geographic extreme of the area to which an ambulance service needs to provide.) Board member and Chairperson Jake Harris reported that before COVID-19 there were about 37,000 EMTs and Paramedics, while currently there are less than 10,000. Besides the extreme stress factors, pay is an issue for low numbers in the profession after the pandemic. Other residents of that township have commented that an ambulance other than Rural Med would “need to cross the (county) line” in order to provide life-saving service when Rural Med is on another call at the opposite limits of the county. Board member Ryan Tompkins brought up the use of a helicopter service. The issue was brought up if having a secondary ambulance service lowers the risk of a fatality in the case of a life threatening call. Sheriff Stevens suggested that an addition ambulance service would not be financially feasible for the current ambulance service. Rural Med currently has two vehicles available but only enough qualified people to service one. Several people asked if the issue really came down to profitability versus what is best for the person in a life-threatening medical situation. Communication with each voter’s Fayette County Representative may lend to other ideas and options.

After the discussion a roll call vote was taken: one “abstain”, five “yes” votes, and “six” no votes, resulting in the defeat for the contract.
The other two items in New Business were approved: a) closing the Courthouse from 11 a.m. until 1 p.m. on Thursday, December 14 for the County Christmas Party, and b) Ordinance 2023-11-14-D amending of theFY23 allotment for the States Attorney line.
Earlier in the meeting Dennis Koch of Dennis G. Koch & Associates L.L.C. offered a detailed presentation of the FY2022 audit via Zoom. Afterwards, the matter was tabled until December’s meeting in order to give board members an opportunity to study over the material that Koch presented.

All three items on the Consent Agenda passed: a) Resolution 2023-11-14-A for the States Attorneys Appellate Persecutor, b) appointment of Julie Gordon to serve for an unexpired term to June 30, 2025, as a member for the Fayette County Health Board, and c) Resolution 2023-11-14-B to appropriate $1,055,000 from the County Motor Fuel Tax fund for 2024 road maintenance.

All five of the items continued from the Finance Consent Agenda were approved:
• Renewal of the Bellwethers contract who provides management services and consulting,
• Renewal of the Conflict Public Defenders contract (This refers to how much to pay for the contract.),
• Utilization of TextMyGov for all County offices with the first two years purchased with A.R.P.A. funds and future funds from the General Administration budget,
• Sheriff’s Office Surplus vehicles going up for bid, including “good titles” (running) 2006 Ford F-150; “junk titles” (impound lot) 1998 Buick Century, 2007 Dodge Grand Caravan, 2000 Chevrolet S10, and 1996 GMC Sierra K1500; vehicles stored in the County shed 1986 Suzuki RM250, 2003 Suzuki LT-Z499, 1984 Honda TRX-200SX, 1986 Honda ATC 250 ES, and 2000 Polaris Trail Boss, and
• EMA surplus vehicles going up for bid with the Sheriff’s Office surplus vehicles: 1984 Ford Econoline 350 (bread truck), 1985 Ford F800 (fire rescue truck), 1993 Ford F350 (ambulance truck), and 2006 Ford Expedition.
In Old Business, four items were approved: a) Ordinance 2023-11-14-A FY2024 Budget Ordinance, b) Ordinance 2023-11-14-B FY2024 Appropriation Ordinance, c) Ordinance 2023-11-14-C FY2924 Levy Ordinance, and d) letter of intent for County owned solar array (to open bids). One item was not approved, the A.R.P.A. request to contract with Fidlar Technologies for updating security on old and current data.