JACKSBORO, TN (WLAF) – The County Commission met online via Zoom on Tuesday evening and voted to increase patient rates for the county ambulance service (Campbell County EMS). Listen to the meeting HERE.

Commissioner Scotty Kitts sponsored the resolution and made the motion for rates to increase as recommended by Ambulance Director Bruce Perkins. Kitts also included in the motion that future patient rates will increase annually by the same percentage rate increases approved by Medicare without further action of the county commission. The motion passed with a vote of 9 to 4. A brief recap is found HERE.

PUBLISHER’S NOTE: Earlier this month, WLAF ran a story about the financial pinch the ambulance service was facing and stated that the First Responder program adopted a few years ago by the City of LaFollette was competition. However, LaFollette Fire Department First Responders, in fact, are an asset to the Campbell County EMS, because they do not transport patients, they merely respond to emergency calls. Once on scene, if the LFD First Responders assess that a patient needs to be transported, then CC EMS is called out. Over the course of a year, Jan. 2020 through Jan. 2021, LFD First Responders answered 1,146 rescue and emergency calls, based on the City’s 911 records. In many of these calls, the LFD, which does not charge for its responses, saved the CC EMS from going on the call leaving it available to answer another call.

Commissioners Ralph Davis, Lisa Lester, Dewayne Baird and Scott Stanfield were the dissenting votes. Commissioners Tyler King and Whit Goins were absent.  

Commissioners have been discussing this issue for a while now after the EMS director approached them about the “need for an increase” last month. According to Perkins, the ambulance service’s billing company had brought it to his attention that the county’s EMS rates were far below the average for the area. Perkins polled surrounding counties for their EMS rates and came up with an average of those in order to create a new patient rate system for the county.

According to a representative from the billing company who spoke to the commission last week, the increase will only affect around 10 to 13 percent of the population since Medicaid and Medicare both have fixed rates that they pay. 

County Mayor E.L. Morton said he was in full support of the increase, which will “hopefully decrease the amount of tax subsidies that have to be used to support the service. The rate increase will take effect on April 1.  

Commissioners also approved  budget amendments and resolutions, which had previously been discussed and approved by the budget and finance committee last week. These amendments included several to the general purpose school fund as well as several to the highway department fund. 

Another budget amendment for $25,000 was approved in regards to improvements for a courtesy dock at Well Springs. There will be an inter local agreement between the county and the Tennessee Valley Authority, who will be doing the work and covering two thirds of the cost, as well as maintenance of the dock.

The whole price of the dock will be around $75,000, with the county’s part being $25,000. There will also be parking lot improvements and it will be made in accordance with ADA compliance. The state will be doing the work once an interlocal agreement is approved, according to Commissioner Robert Higginbotham.  This interlocal agreement will be discussed and voted on at the March County commission meeting.

Also approved was a three year contract for uniforms for both the county street department and the county sanitation department.    

At last week’s work shop several commissioners had asked the county mayor to see if he could talk with the Tennessee Department of Transportation to help with the construction issues on the east end of LaFollette and going up the valley. Commissioner Lisa Lester and Commissioner Kitts both reported having multiple complaints from citizens regarding how dangerous the area is. Mayor Morton reported to the commission that he had been in contact with the East Tennessee TDOT Director Steve Borden regarding the construction problems from the “east end of LaFollette to the Davis Chapel area.” Morton asked the director to meet with the commissioners and the county road superintendent to “discuss and figure out what to do to make the construction area safer.” A meeting date is being coordinated and will be announced when it is scheduled. 

The next county commission workshop will be Mon., March 8th at 6 p.m. According to commissioner chair Johnny Bruce, March commission workshops and meetings will be held in person at the county courthouse. (WLAF NEWS PUBLISHED – 02/17/2021-6AM)