EMS Services for Dade Still in Negotiations


The county continues negotiations for an EMS provider for Dade.


E-911/EMA/EMS Director Alex Case spoke to county commissioners during the November County Commission meeting about the bids opened in October, expenses, and other considerations regarding the lowest bid submitted in response to Dade County’s RFP (Request for Proposal). 
Of the three bids presented in October, Memorial submitted the two lowest bids with two Option C’s – or the option to give their own proposal, ignoring the first two options. Case said the county was going to have to go with the $400,000 because it provided two-24 hour trucks like Dade currently has. The lower bid by CHI Memorial was for one 24 hour ambulance and one 12 hour ambulance for the county.
One of the big reasons Case said the county originally decided to bid out EMS instead of extending their contract with Puckett, was due to issues with the county having to put up the volunteer service to cover the county when all of Puckett’s units were busy. Case stated that Dade EMS had been put up 89 times in October.
Case and County Clerk Don Townsend explained that the commission was just voting on a resolution that would basically be a letter to let CHI Memorial know that they intended to go with their bid, so that they could enter into negotiations to finalize the contract.
Case also explained why the bids were so high from the other providers and that Memorial as a non-profit hospital could actually absorb more of the deficit EMS runs under, making their bid a lot lower than the others. With a budget of only $385,000 set aside in the FY 2021 EMS budget approved in July by commissioners, the county will have to continue negotiations in order to get the $400,000 subsidy down to an amount that fits in their budget and leave funding for the volunteer service required by the state to maintain county control of our EMS zone. The entire EMS budget for FY 2020 was approved at $285,000, $100,000 less than the FY 2021 budget, and included subsidy, volunteer service costs, fuel, supplies, and equipment.  Puckett chose not to bid the recent RFP and Case said they were not sure why.
Another reason bids may have gone up, and items that could be part of the negotiations for a lower subsidy, is the additions and changes in the recent RFP like the one which asks for a Paramedic and an EMT-Intermediate or AEMT to staff all ambulances. An EMT-I or AEMT are one level of training higher than the EMT’s which can currently be used and mean a higher employee cost. The EMT-I or AEMT on an ambulance is not a state requirement.  Section of the RFP adds that if the county calls for more training of personnel, then the expense of that training will be covered by the provider or by EMS personnel. Trucks and personnel are already required to maintain certification and training through the state. The RFP does include a list of required call times and penalties for leaving the county uncovered or failing to maintain required call times.
The 2011 contract, the first contract, signed with Puckett for two 24-hr ambulances staffed with an EMT and a Paramedic included a subsidy of $10,583.33 a month ($127,000 yearly), all supplies provided by Puckett with fuel up to $2,000 a month from the county and housing provided by the county.
The county’s most recent contract, signed in 2015, with Puckett was a subsidy of $11,250 a month ($135,000 yearly) with the county providing up to $3,000 a month in fuel, housing for EMS personnel during their shifts, one ambulance by the county, up to $500 monthly in supplies, and other details. A couple more changes included fines for Puckett if certain response times were not met or the county went uncovered more than a set amount of time.
Neighboring Walker County has already accepted Memorial as their provider. 
Dade County resident Bill Lawson spoke to commissioners about Dugan Loop, where he resides. Lawson said the road began as a gravel road, then was paved which was great, but now is too narrow as traffic along the road has increased over the years. In some areas, Lawson explained, there was a five or six-inch drop off on the edge of the road making it hard for some vehicles to move over to allow other vehicles to pass. Lawson asked commissioners if there was a way to put in shoulders on the road, as he did not know if widening it was an option. County Executive Ted Rumley said Dugan Loop was a prescriptive road and asked Attorney Robin Rogers to look at what the county might be able to do.
Commissioner Lamar Lowery reported on the E-911 calls for the month of October. Dade dispatchers handled 241 EMS calls, 267 fire department calls, and 3,658 law enforcement calls. Lowery said the numbers of those in the Chattanooga area hospitalized by COVID had gone down to 71 for the month, but were up in October to 131 hospitalized with COVID-19 in area hospitals.
Commissioner Robert Goff said SPLOST and LOST remain strong with SPLOST collected in August totaling $226,844. Goff gave a shout out to DCHS students Anna Ballard and the Boys Cross Country Team who had qualified to go to state, the softball team that played two rounds at state, the volleyball team which played one round at state, and the football team which won their homecoming game.
Commissioner Allan Bradford announced that Lookout Lake Dam was open and residents can now drive across the dam. Striping on the road is set to begin in two weeks. Several roads including Slygo Road and Harris Road have been paved this past month. County Road 6 is set to start this week and will be closed for several months while extensive repairs are made.
Bradford shared that the Veterans Day Parade would be held on November 14, with line-up at Trenton First Baptist beginning at 10 am and the parade starting at 11 am. Just veterans are being allowed in the parade as well as those driving a vehicle like an antique car.
Rumley reported Tractor Supply has finished demolition and will be starting construction on their building very soon. Dirt work at the site for the new Dollar General on Sand Mountain began Thursday morning and the Fred’s building has been purchased by a group that represents several major retail outlets, but no word on what business will be housed in the building.
Commissioners unanimously approved Proclamations declaring November as Adoption Awareness Month, Family Caregivers Month, Hospice Month and Diabetes Awareness Month, November 15 as America Recycle Day; the second reading of amendments to the county’s timber ordinance; and the tentative agreement for ambulance service with CHI Memorial as amended by the City Attorney.
An executive session was held by county Commissioners to discuss a personnel issue. When Commissioners returned to the meeting, Rumley said no action would be taken and that it was mainly informative for commissioners.
County offices will be closed on Wednesday, November 11, for Veterans Day.
The full videos of the meetings can be seen below.