911 board discusses long-term ambulance options

Published 10:11 am Thursday, December 16, 2021

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By JOYANNA LOVE/ Managing Editor

Alternative options for ambulance service were discussed by the Chilton County 911 Board during a meeting on Dec. 15.

The current ambulance service agreement with Regional Paramedical Service ended this month.

Re-bidding the service and including a subsidy option had been approved at an August meeting.

However, Board Chairman Jimmie Hardee said the current offer from RPS was a one-year contract for $300,000, but the company would pay no penalty fees for the first six months if it did not meet the response time requirements in the agreement. Hardee said this was $150,000 “to keep what we’ve got” for six months.

“There is no way that we can do this,” Hardee said.

The agreement would not commit designated ambulances to Chilton County. The general comment from board members was that this essentially kept what the county had now but with the county paying for it.

RPS has said it loses money in Chilton County because at least half of the calls are not paid.

Board member Butch Billingsley said RPS has been in Chilton County for at least 22 years.

Hardee expressed concern that if Shelby County stopped using RPS for ambulance service, then the company would stop serving Chilton County after six months.

“We better have a Plan B,” Hardee said.

Possibilities discussed at the meeting included the county trying to get a deal similar to what the city of Clanton has with RPS to have designated ambulances in different areas of the county, establishing a county ambulance and researching an ambulance start up GPEMS.

Splitting the cost of having three designated ambulances through RPS among the county and the cities in an agreement similar to the one Clanton has was also discussed.

Under Clanton’s agreement with RPS, the city provides the paramedics and a place to store the ambulance, while RPS supplies the ambulance and a driver. Each entity provides some of the equipment.

Hardee said he would coordinate asking RPS about providing two ambulances specifically for use in Chilton County.  Asking for three had been discussed, but Hardee said two was probably more doable to start.

Such an agreement with three ambulances was estimated to cost $600,000, but would ensure there were ambulances within the county boundaries at all times.

Sheriff John Shearon said it would be worth asking.

“Our budget is already set for the year,” Thorsby Mayor Robert Hight said. “We don’t have $50,000-$75,000.”

Hight said Thorsby is covered by Jemison, which has one ambulance.

Any agreement for something like this would have to be approved by each of the councils and the county commission.

“If RPS would agree to that (three ambulances), they would have to go out and buy trucks,” Hardee said.

He said he had heard the wait time for getting an ambulance and fully equipping it was a year at this point because of supply issues.

Concerns about whether the county would be able to hire the needed paramedics were also discussed.

“There is a medic shortage,” Shearon said.

Clanton Mayor Jeff Mims and Fire Chief David Driver said the city had four applications for the three positions it was hiring for.

Hardee said if the county were to have three ambulance and provide the service itself, it would cost approximately $1.5 million. However, he said he was working on a plan that might be able to fund it.

GPEMS had submitted a bid for the service previously, but the company had not completed its certification process at the time.

Shearon expressed concern that since GPEMS is just getting established that it might not last as a company.

Other board members expressed concern that the proposal was too good to be true.

Also during the meeting, the board approved a motion in favor of changing dispatchers classification from secretaries to first responders. This is a change that would have to be passed by the state legislature before going into effect. However, Chilton County 911 Director Terra Scott said passing a local resolution helps show support for the change.

The next meeting of the Chilton County 911 Board is set for Jan. 13 at 4:30 p.m.