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911 Board accepting ambulance bids

By JOYANNA LOVE/ Managing Editor

The Chilton County 911 Board unanimously approved putting out a request for proposals for ambulance service during a meeting on Dec. 17.

Proposals will be based on a contract developed by the board’s contract oversight group for one ambulance company to provide service to the entire county. The contract includes a clause that the company would serve as a backup for Jemison, which has a city-owned ambulance that dispatches from the fire department.

Board members acknowledged that the contract may need some tweaking based on the proposals received.

Contract oversight group chair Matt Griffin said the committee had developed something that all those in the group could live with, even if there were parts they would have liked to change.

“This is really just the first step in getting this done,” Griffin said “… It will get us in the right direction moving forward.”

Griffin said Michael Minor with the Birmingham Regional Emergency Medical Services system was helpful in developing aspects of the contract because he has worked with other counties in developing similar contracts.

Board members thanked the committee for their work.

The contract would be based on the ambulance service making its money from patient/insurance payments for transport, without any funding from the 911 board.

Griffin and 911 Director Terra Scott mentioned that having a contract in place would create accountability for the company to the 911 Board.

The initial contact with a company would be for two years. However, there is a clause allowing either entity to end the contract with six months’ notice.

The contract outlines fines that would be charged to the ambulance company if service provided is not in compliance with the contract. How funds from these fees would be used is something the 911 Board will need to decide at a later date, Griffin said.

There will be a vetting process as a part of the selection process to ensure that the companies submitting proposals can actually meet the requirements.

Scott said the contract will not solve all of the problems because the nation is still experiencing a shortage of paramedics, “but it is a starting point to get us in a better position.”

Thorsby Mayor Robert Hight said an actual contract should be presented to each of the municipal governments for a vote after the board chooses a company through the bid process. 911 Board Chairman Joseph Parnell agreed.

The actual contract would be with the 911 board, not the individual municipalities, according to Scott.

The board discussed a recent conversation by the Clanton City Council about researching the possibility of having its own ambulance service.

“I’m not for having one, but you know I’m not for letting someone sit out there and die because they are waiting (on an ambulance),” Clanton Mayor Jeff Mims said. “I know you all aren’t either. We are all in the same boat.”

During the recent Clanton work session where ambulance service was discussed, the countywide contract had been discussed as a good plan in order to have time to decide what the city wanted to do.

Upfront cost for vehicles can be a hindering factor for any municipality looking to establish ambulance service.

Scott said local entities adding ambulance service could be a reality in the future, but a countywide contract with a private company was the “quickest, most feasible solution” for better service.

Work is also continuing on the creation of a countywide emergency communications system. Scott gave the 911 board an update during the Dec. 17 meeting. Construction of a tower in Maplesville is expected to begin in January 2021. Scott said the hope is for the system to go live in mid-March 2021.