Potential change in ambulance services creates concern, causes contention at county commission

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by Fred Woods

Editor

 

What sounded like a fairly simple request from the Smiths Station Volunteer Fire Department (or SS Fire and Rescue) to the Lee County Commission to opt out of the expiring emergency response and ambulance service contract with East Alabama EMS, LLC, in favor of a contract with Care Ambulance of Alabama, Inc. was quickly attacked by the two commissioners representing districts the furthest away from Smiths Station as reckless, short-sighted behavior that was unfair to the current contractor.

Instead, the two ambulance companies were asked to “get together” and agree how Care Ambulance would supplement the services of East Alabama EMC when EMC ambulances are not able to promptly respond to Smiths Station calls. Mr. Long expressed the fond hope that this could be accomplished by the next commission meeting

Fire Chief Joe Walden and Fire Captain Daniel Sexton both attested to their dissatisfaction with service as provided to the Smiths Station Fire District by EMS and their strong desire to enter into a separate contract with Care.

Care has agreed to a three year agreement with a three year renewal option to provide two fully staffed, 24-hour ALS ambulances stationed within the Smiths Station Fire District with no county subsidy money.

Under the current contract with EMS, its owner, EAMC, receives a subsidy of more than $289,000 annually from each of the three governing jurisdictions in Lee County (Auburn, Opelika and Lee County).

In a letter apparently independent of the Smiths Station action, but still lumped in with it, the Lee County Firefighter’s Association asked the commission to consider issuing a request for proposals for ambulance service when the current contract with East Alabama EMS, LLC, expires at the end of this month.

John McCracken, chairman of the Firefighters, but also an East Alabama EMS employee, attended and basically trashed the letter, including questioning whether a quorum was present when the vote was taken to send the letter.

The county-wide ambulance service contract expires at the end of this month and, so far as is known, there are no plans to advertise for bids in spite of this dissatisfaction with the current provider. In spite of EMS ties to the hospital the public should be aware that both EMS and Care are profit-seeking entities.

County Elections Manager Butch Brock announced that there are no changes in polling places for the special election on September 18. Changes for the November 6 general election will be discussed later.

Due to a question regarding the severity of fines and penalties for violation, approval for the required publication of the new county building code was deferred to the next meeting.

In other action the commission …

– approved a bid of $2,647 per unit from Interceptor Public Safety Products for 15 notebook computers for the Lee County Sheriff’s Office.

– heard first readings for several county board appointments.

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