FLORENCE — The Lauderdale County Commission joined the city of Florence in awarding a new emergency medical service contract to Shoals Ambulance Service.
The commission voted Monday morning 3-0. Commissioner Larry Irons was absent due to a death in his family.
Shoals Ambulance Service, which is currently based out of Shoals Hospital, and Lauderdale EMS, the current provider, were the only two companies to submit bids on the contract.
The ambulance bid is a joint bid between the city of Florence and the County Commission.
Last week, the Florence City Council voted to award the bid to Shoals Ambulance.
"It's been a long process, but I understand that. It's not something the city and county should take lightly," said Bryan Gibson, owner of Shoals Ambulance. "We're very proud to win the ... bid for the city and county. We'll do a great job and look forward to it."
Shelly Pettus, a Center Star residence, spoke in favor of the commission keeping Lauderdale EMS as the ambulance provider.
"I'm disappointed we are getting an (ambulance) service we know nothing about and dismiss people who are proven providers," Pettus told commissioners after the vote.
Commissioners said the decision came down to which company could provide the best emergency medical service for county residents.
"I looked at what I would want for my family," Commissioner Roger Garner said. "We're talking about life-and-death situations and in those situations we want the best we can get."
Commissioner D.C. Thornton said he based his decision on the fact that the committee that reviewed the two bids unanimously recommended Shoals Ambulance and the fact that he had concerns over Lauderdale EMS staffing.
According to county officials, records provided to the county from Lauderdale EMS indicate that during a four-month period in 2012, the company ran 382 calls without a paramedic on board the ambulance.
Thornton said according to the contract, all ambulances were to be staffed with a paramedic.
"If something is wrong with me or my family, I want a paramedic there, not just an (emergency medical technician)," Thornton said.
Commissioner Fay Parker said he has received several calls complaining about the service provide by Lauderdale EMS.
"Several folks called me wanting the best, the most qualified," Parker said. "No reflection on Lauderdale EMS, but at some point and time, you have to make a decision and direction you want to go. Sometimes we have to change and this was the time we needed to change."
Bruce Carson, director of Lauderdale EMS, which is based in Florence and is under the umbrella of Helen Keller Hospital in Sheffield, said he was disappointed.
"But we accept it and hope it is in the best interest of the county residents," Carson.
Shoals Ambulance is expected to begin the new operation within 60 days.
Carson said there was an agreement in the contract for Lauderdale EMS to continue service through the transition.
Shoals Ambulance will have 10 ambulances and one critical-care truck, Gibson said. Typically, there will be one each in the Central/Rhodesville, Elgin, Killen and Rogersville areas and several in Florence. The exact numbers and locations will increase and decrease during a typical day in response to factors such as the amount and location of calls, Gibson said.
Response times for emergency calls will be within 10 minutes in Zone 1 and 20 minutes in Zone 2, Gibson said. Zone 1 extends from the Natchez Trace Bridge in the western part of Lauderdale County to Alabama 101 on the east, Gibson said. Everything west of the bridge and east of Alabama 101 is in Zone 2.
In other action, the commission:
bought cameras and monitors for the solid waste trucks at $2,033.31 each;
approved a contract with Brooks and Sons Construction Co., of Elkmont, for $188,416.24 for bridge replacement on Lauderdale 11;
agreed to pay $3,397 annually for Internet security service;
approved a bid of $12,750 per unit for 16 outdoor weather sirens; and
approved Robert Hughes to the NACOLG Revolving Loan Board, Greg Ezell and Barry Auchly to the Northwest Alabama Regional Airport Board.
Tom Smith can be reached at 256-740-5757 or tom.smith@TimesDaily.com.
Bernie Delinski contributed to this story.