FLORENCE — The City Council on Tuesday approved a contract with a new ambulance service, leaving the final decision to change services in county in the hands of Lauderdale County commissioners.
Shoals Ambulance Service of Muscle Shoals was awarded the joint countywide contract in a vote of city council members. If the County Commission approves it next week, it will end a long-standing relationship with Lauderdale EMS, which is owned by Helen Keller Hospital in Sheffield.
The new contract also would take in Killen and Center Star, which are presently served by a rescue squad.
There was virtually no discussion about the contract, in part because most of the details were covered in a work session two weeks ago in which the Lauderdale Commission was present.
In that meeting, city Treasurer Dan Barger said the fees the two services listed in their bids are less important than the quality of service offered.
Barger pointed out that more than 90 percent the services' fee collections will be from Medicare or Medicaid, which pay nonnegotiable fees, or from Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Alabama, which pays substantially less than charges submitted to them. A committee earlier recommended the two governments accept Shoals Ambulance's bid.
In other business, the council voted to annex 65 acres on the north side of Gresham Road at the intersection of Seville Street.
Mayor Mickey Haddock said the council was not aware of the annexation request until they were informed of a legal notice in the TimesDaily of a legislative act to allow the annexation. Because the property is in the planning jurisdiction of both Florence and St. Florian, the Legislature must remove the property from St. Florian's jurisdiction to be annexed into Florence.
The council also approved a $2 million general obligation warrant to Regions Bank that will be used to build Florence-Lauderdale Tourism's welcome center in McFarland Park. The tourism board's enabling act does not allow it to borrow money, but does allow it to make debt payments. The tourism office will repay the money over 15 years with money collected from lodging taxes.
The council also rezoned the 155-acre former Florence Golf and Country Club from a flooding, agricultural and recreation zone to a residential business district. The city bought the property in November 2009 with the intent of using a small portion to expand the adjacent sanitary landfill, but later decided to close the landfill to municipal solid waste.
The city is entertaining a second offer from a Chinese company to buy the land for what the city paid for it and build a residential teaching facility in conjunction with the University of North Alabama.
Robert Palmer can be reached at 256-740-5720 or robert.palmer@TimesDaily.com.