The Dale County Commission has appointed an emergency medical service provider for the south end of the county.
At the commission meeting Sept. 24, the commission voted by majority to appoint the Echo EMS to provide EMS services to the towns of Napier Feld, Grimes, Pinckard, Newton, Midland City and the unserved areas of south Dale County.
Commissioners Frankie Wilson and Steve McKinnon voted in favor of the resolution which also allows the commission to distribute tag tax funds allocated for the south end of the county to Echo EMS. Commissioner Chris Carroll was not present at the Sept. 24 meeting. Commissioner Charles “Chic” Gary cast the single dissenting vote.
At issue is the fact that in January 2018 Dale County voters approved a $5 tag tax earmarked for the emergency medical services in Dale County. Three percent of the proceeds from the $5 fee for each motor vehicle is retained by the Dale County Revenue Commissioner’s office for administrative costs and the remainder given to the Dale County Commission to be distributed quarterly to municipalities and emergency medical service organizations for EMS services.
Nearly one year later there is still no EMS in the south end of the county and at a commission meeting July 23 the commissioners decided to give a 30-day deadline to the municipalities to present a viable plan adding that in the absence of such a plan, they would allocate the tag tax money to another EMS to provide service at that end of the county.
With no “viable plan” being presented, Dale County Commission Chairman Mark Blankenship told those attending the Sept. 24 commission meeting that County Attorney Henry Steagall had been asked to draw up a resolution appointing Echo EMS to be the EMS provider for the south end of the county.
“The act states that in the event the county commission determines that proper EMS services are not being adequately provided in an area of the county, the commission may divert a portion of the funds to contract with private EMS services as needed in the unserved/underserved area,” the resolution states. “The commission has determined that the Echo EMS organization, a non-profit corporate member of the Dale County EMS Association, has adequate facilities, equipment, organization and professional paid full-time staff to provide EMS services in the southern part of Dale County and it is willing to expand its operations to include those areas.”
At a Sept. 10 commission meeting, Midland City Mayor Joann Grimsley read aloud a letter from the south Dale municipalities involved. “The purpose of this letter is to inform you of the goals of South Dale EMS,” she said, referring to the newly formed South Dale Emergency Medical Services. “Currently South Dale EMS is using Midland City EMS as its first call responder in order to expedite the arrival time of EMS in South Dale County.
“Once our system—including radio, 911 dispatch and proper licensing from the state of Alabama—has been put in place for South Dale EMS, South Dale EMS will absorb (the current) Midland City EMS,” Grimsley told the commission at that time, adding that future plans included building an EMS Center on donated property.
“Starting an EMS requires time and financial resources,” Grimsley told the commissioners Sept. 10. “We thank you for the help you have given us and we would appreciate it if you could give us a little more time to get everything up and running.”
Blankenship reiterated Sept. 24 what he told Grimsley earlier, that it was unfair to the citizens who have been paying the tag tax since January to still be without emergency medical services. He told her that the money allocated for the south end of the county was being held until it could be determined which agency would be the recipient.
At the Sept. 24 commission meeting representatives from some of the south Dale municipalities joined Grimsley in appealing for more time to start up an EMS. Steagall told them that a provision in the resolution allows any of the towns which can provide documented evidence that their services have been operational for at least 90 days “and have been fully responsive in a timely manner to dispatch assignments by the Ozark/Dale County E911 Call Center and their EMS service has sufficient facilities, equipment and professional full time staff, may petition the commission for relief from this action.
“Upon consideration thereof, the commission, in its discretion, may re-direct the distribution of pro-rated funds to that town as necessary,” the resolution states. “The commission reserves the right to reconsider the matter should circumstances warrant.”
The next meeting of the Dale County Commission is Oct. 8 in the Dale County Government Building in Ozark. A work session begins at 10 a.m. and is followed immediately by a voting meeting. Both meetings are open to the public.