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By Christa Jennings
Senior Staff Writer
The Coosa County Commission is still gradually making progress in getting a county-wide ambulance service in operation, with the ambulance to be stationed in Rockford to provide better assistance and call time to the western side of the county.
During its meeting last Tuesday, Coosa EMS Director Hollie Osbourn reported that the springs on the ambulance had been repaired and said that she was waiting on a certificate of liability.
She further stated that she was going to hand deliver the EMS License Application to Chris Otto at the Alabama Department of Public Health office in Prattville so that he can ensure the county has everything needed to get licensed and start the service.
She explained that there had been delays with this part of the process because of a required signature that she had to wait to get this month as the individual had a family emergency last month. However, now that the signature has been acquired and she is ready to continue, she expressed that hand delivering the application should help speed things along.
Commissioners expressed that they were pleased with her work in this process and that things are progressing at a faster rate than first anticipated.
In other updates, Osbourn said that they had gotten the cardiac monitor in and that she has been ordering a few supplies along. She said she cannot stock the ambulance until she has the license, but that she is gathering supplies along so that they are not overwhelmed once they can stock it.
“We’re bringing it in a little bit at a time, and we’ll have everything up and running here shortly,” she said.
Also related to the ambulance, in other business during last week’s meeting, the County Commission discussed at length a resolution to request local legislation for an additional add-on tag fee “for the operation of a county ambulance based at the county seat.”
During the discussion, county attorney John K. Johnson provided an outline of the resolution for the commission’s consideration, adding that the specifics are up to the commission and that it is “their choice.”
Johnson added that it would go through the process for local citizens to vote on the matter during the next election cycle.
The commissioners discussed the need for the additional ambulance service on the western side of the county. Commissioner Ronnie Joiner stated that there were two incidences just the weekend prior in which ambulances “couldn’t get to anybody.”
“I’m sure they were trying, but they didn’t make it,” he said.
Johnson stated, “You’ve got Goodwater currently. You’ve got Kellyton currently. They both do an immaculate job. They have enough volunteers. You do not have enough volunteers in the south and western portion of your county for response time purposes. This system, as y’all have planned and have it set up, would be available to assist both Goodwater and Kellyton if it’s not currently in use. It is not designated not to be able to operate in other portions of your county.”
In ongoing discussion, Judge of Probate Richard Dean said that they sell about 17,000 tags each year. He added that Coosa one of the only counties in the state that does not have any additional fees added to the tags.
Dean said that he would recommend they exclude commercial vehicles because those have the option to go to another county to get their tags renewed. He added that another consideration the county would have to take into account is when they want the tag fee to go into effect since that would determine in which election it would be included.
In addressing questions during further discussion, Dean said that the 17,000 tags sold per year does not include the commercial vehicle tags.
Dean added that he had received questions about probate office fees related to the tag fee.
“The probate office would get no fees from this,” he said. “The only thing that the probate office does is we collect the fees you tell us to collect, period.”
The commission has estimated that it would need about $200,000 to $250,000 per year to sustain the ambulance service. While the county currently has American Rescue Plan Act, or ARPA, funds available to help get the ambulance service up and running, it does not have the funds to sustain it long term.
As such, the county has considered and discussed various options and ideas for ways to sustain the service going forward, such as grants and other options to help offset the cost. The additional tag fee has been mentioned previously as an option to help sustain the ambulance service and keep it available for citizens.
After much discussion, District 5 Commissioner Lamar Daugherty made a motion to add a sum of $15 to all motor vehicle tags, excluding commercial vehicles, and including boat tags sold in Coosa County to be earmarked for the operational expense of the county ambulance service based in the county seat.
“I just bought seven tags this morning,” Daugherty added. “It would have made my tags go up $105, and that is well worth the price of an ambulance to me.”
EMS Director Osbourn added that when you break down that example of $105 over the course of 12 months, “What is it costing you extra a month? When you look at it from that perspective, it’s a minute amount.”
Joiner said that if an individual smokes it amounts to not smoking two packs in a year, or that if someone drinks beer they would be giving up three 6-packs a year.
“That’s just an example,” Joiner said. “That’s what you’ve got to sacrifice to have an ambulance. That’s what it amounts to.”
During other brief discussion, it was further emphasized that the matter would be put forth on a ballot for the citizens of Coosa County to vote on before it would become effective.
After Daugherty’s motion was made and there was further brief discussion, Joiner seconded the motion, and it was unanimously approved.
Last week’s meeting of the County Commission was not adjourned. Rather, the meeting was recessed to hold a work session that at the time was still to be set at a future date and time.
On Wednesday it was reported that the County Commission will meet on Monday, January 23, at 3 p.m. in the Commission Courtroom of the courthouse, and the commission will come out of recess at that time and continue the meeting from January 10.
Mike Brewer from East Alabama and Louis Hines from the state will be in attendance to discuss the county’s redistricting as a redistricting plan will need to be approved.
Other matters from last week’s meeting that were tabled until the meeting reconvenes is the discussion regarding relocating the extension Office and the garbage disposal contract.
See coverage of the remainder of the meeting in next week’s edition once the meeting has officially adjourned.