A special meeting was called by the Clay County Council last evening. The county commissioners had asked the council for an additional appropriation of $45,250 for ambulance service.
Representatives from Athens, Trans Care and CARE were in attendance to answer questions from the council. The current contract expires Dec. 31.
Councilman Larry Moss made a motion to reject the appropriation and Councilman Les Harding seconded the motion. The issue then went into a lengthy discussion.
Moss said, "I don't understand why the bids can't be re-bid." He also said, "Why should we have to pay $45,250 dollars more because we have commissioners that don't get along?"
Councilman Harding said the ambulance service can be classified as a professional service, which does not require bidding. Athens Ambulance, the current service provider for 25 years has not had to bid in the past.
"My hope is to bring paramedic ambulance service to the county," said Commissioner Dave Parr. Athens doesn't have paramedics on staff.
This morning, Parr told The Times the additional $45,250 was requested by the commissioners because that additional amount is needed to obtain paramedic staff.
"We cannot spend more than is allocated in the budget," Parr said today. None of the ambulance service bids included paramedic staffing for $153,000.
Councilman Moss ex-pressed concern for Athens' employees future employment.
A representative from CARE commented that it is important to keep current employees on staff because of their experience with Clay County.
A representative from Athens spoke to the council and expressed what their intentions were. He said that Athens has an alternate bid for $153,000 dollars, the amount allocated in the budget for service. Athens has 12 employees on its staff with more than 120 years experience in Clay County and if awarded the contract, their plan is to upgrade to an intermediate level of care. They do not want to have to let members go to hire paramedics.
Trans Care, the current provider in Vigo County said they could possibly provide up to 10 ambulances during an emergency situation because of the proximity to Vigo County. Their ambulances are equipped to handle rural areas like Clay County.
Councilman Mike McCullough said he did not favor any service and was very careful with his words.
"I would rather see the commissioners do nothing than to make a mistake," he said. "We have had Athens for 25 years, I've been involved for 20 and I can count on one hand the amount of complaints that they've had. If we have to wait six months or a year, let's get it right."
After the discussion ended President Warren Stephenson brought the council to a vote. The motion to allocate additional funding was unanimously denied.
Stephenson said, "As council president I would like to make a request that the commissioners please work out their differences and come together and make a decision."