George: County could stick with city EMS

Published 10:06 pm Saturday, August 27, 2016

An 11th hour agreement between the city of Vicksburg and Warren County is expected to keep fire department ambulances responding to medical emergencies in the county.

According to the agreement, Board of Supervisors President Richard George said, the county will pay the city $350 per dispatched ambulance run and pay a shared cost of $280,000 for the rescue unit during the first year. The second year, the cost per ambulance run increases to $400 per run and $280,000 per year for rescue.

“We’ll have to vote on it Monday, but we believe we have something that will work,” George said of the tentative two-year agreement. He said a poll of the supervisors by county administrator John Smith “got enough response to believe we have a deal.”

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“We need three, and he indicated we had three,” George said. George and District 4 Supervisor John Carlisle have both supported retaining the county’s 39-year ambulance agreement with the city.

The Board of Supervisors will hold a 9 a.m. special meeting Monday to vote on the agreement. If it is approved, Mayor George Flaggs Jr. said, the Board of Mayor and Aldermen will meet at 2 p.m. to approve the concept, clearing the way for a resolution setting the interlocal agreement between the county and city.

Smith said the agreement has a clause allowing either party to end it within 90 days.

He said he sent texts to each supervisor, adding he heard from Carlisle and District 3 Supervisor William Banks, who asked about how the numbers would affect the county’s budget, “and I told him I would have them for Monday’s meeting.” He indicated Banks “sounded favorable” to the plan.

He was unable to reach District 1 Supervisor John Arnold or District 2 Supervisor Charles Selmon.

When contacted earlier Friday before the agreement was announced, Arnold said he would give his position on ambulance service Monday. Attempts to reach Selmon were unsuccessful.

“At least the city did negotiate between $300 and $400; it came to $350. It’s good to see them negotiate,” Smith said. “I think it’s going to be a favorable vote.”

“I want to commend the board (of supervisors) for working with us to reach this agreement,” Flaggs said. “I’m glad we were able to get together and work out an agreement.

The only issue remaining, he said, is the resolution of some dispatched rescue unit runs that were under-billed to the county, adding city officials are working to get a correct amount. City Attorney Nancy Thomas said the county will not owe the city for any past ambulance runs, adding, “all of those have been accounted for.” The rescue unit runs, she said, are being audited.

County officials considered hiring a private ambulance company after the supervisors balked at the county’s proposed $400 per dispatched call rate.

The Board of Supervisors looked at two private companies, American Medical Response, or AMR, of Jackson, and Laurel-based ASAP EMS.

The board on Aug. 22 was to have authorized George to sign a contract with ASAP, but tabled the matter to talk with city officials, and planned a special meeting Monday to vote on whether to go to ASAP or renew its agreement with the county.

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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