County supervisors studying options for ambulance service

Published 12:03 am Tuesday, October 20, 2015

NATCHEZ — Members of the Adams County Board of Supervisors said Monday they would start the process of crafting a request for proposals for a county ambulance service.

The board stopped short, however, of taking official action to move forward with the request.

Although some counties require ambulances services to operate with something similar to a franchise agreement, Adams County does not.

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Two services, American Medical Response and Metro Ambulance, currently operate in the county under the guidelines of what has been characterized as a broad ordinance. The companies rotate calls.

Monday’s discussion was the second such for the board this month, the first raised after the supervisors said they got word of a resident who had to wait 45 minutes for an ambulance to arrive. The board previously discussed the possibility of updating the ordinance on the books to include a required response time.

Supervisor David Carter said he met with the companies recently, and while they made some suggestions that would make things more efficient, those suggestions did not include a required response time.

“It still doesn’t solve any of the problems we have,” Carter said. “If you have somebody on the ground having a heart attack, you want somebody there quickly.”

When Supervisor Mike Lazarus said someone living in the more rural parts of the county should expect a slightly longer response time, Carter said the board could set zones with different expected response times.

“If we put that out there and it isn’t feasible, and the ordinance they want to establish is best, that will be just as well,” Carter said.

AMR Operations Manager William Sharp said the company has requests for proposals in Amite, Wilkinson, Jefferson and Claiborne counties.

“I am not familiar with the response time aspects of the contracts,” he said. “I do know we are subsidized in those counties. I believe Adams County needs what is best for them, whether it is AMR, Acadian or Joe Blow Ambulance service.”

Adams County does not subsidize ambulance service, though the possibility was raised without serious commitment during earlier discussions.

Lazarus was still hesitant to broach the topic of funding Monday.

“Before you jump in with subsidies, make sure there might be enough business in the county that they don’t need the subsidy if they are the sole provider,” he said.

Board attorney Scott Slover said any request for proposal needs to be well thought.

“We need to research it before we authorize it,” he said.

County Administrator Joe Murray said his own research into the issue has found that counties that have ambulance contracts usually set them to coincide with the terms of the board members. The new board will take office in January.

“When it comes to ambulance service and not having an established agreement in place, it is probably something that should have happened a long time ago,” he said.

In other news:

-The board voted to adopt the interlocal agreement for a consolidated recreation program with the City of Natchez.

The supervisors had already committed to the plan, and Monday’s move was simply the finalization of the process after all of the legal drafting involved with the agreement had been completed.

The most substantial changes to the agreement were a clause requiring an annual audit of the recreation program and a change that will allow funding dedicated to soccer fields to be used for other projects if money is left over once the fields are completed, Carter said.

The draft adopted Monday likewise changes the language from calling for the construction of a junior size Olympic pool to a more general “aquatic center.”

Lazarus said that change was made to accommodate programs that aren’t necessarily competitive in nature, such as a senior citizens’ exercise program.

-Murray said he has cleared up a misunderstanding with WastePro, the county’s waste disposal company, which resulted in a temporary discontinuation of recycling pickup in the county.

The issue was a matter of miscommunication, Murray said, and recycling will continue.

-The board voted to amend the budget of the chancery court by approximately $70,000.

The vote came at the request of Chancery Judge George Ward, who said he and fellow Chancery Judge Vincent Davis both need to hire staff attorneys.

The court has previously hired clerks, but now the judges need full-fledged attorneys in those roles to help with the judges’ caseloads, Ward said.

-County Fire Coordinator Darryl Smith asked the board to remind the public that the county is under a burn ban until the end of the month because of dry conditions.