Madison County will have two state-of-the-art ambulances added to its fleet in the spring.
County commissioners agreed to move forward with the purchase of two TraumaHawk ambulances Monday. EMS director Jason Lewis said the ambulances will cost a total of $251,294, or $125,647 apiece.
The vehicles will ultimately be covered by sales tax money, but the commissioners agreed to use cash reserves to go ahead and purchase the vehicles until that money begins rolling in later this year. Madison County citizens approved the renewal of the Special purpose local option sales tax (SPLOST) in November and new ambulances were included in that referendum.
The ambulance director said he is trying to phase out old, high mileage ambulances, replacing them on a yearly basis. The county currently has seven ambulances, including one with 275,000 miles. Lewis said this year will include the purchase of two new ambulances and then one ambulance will be acquired each year for the next five years.
Lewis lauded the TraumaHawk, noting that the last ambulance purchased by the county was that brand. He said it’s a top-of-the-line emergency vehicle at a lower cost than older county ambulances.
Commissioner Mike Youngblood agreed.
“It’s a night and day comparison between the old and the new,” said Youngblood.
Lewis said that new ambulances could be delivered in late May or early June. He noted that going ahead and buying the ambulances will allow the county to avoid licensing both the two new and the two phased-out ambulances over the next year, which will save $3,600.
On a related note, county commission chairman Anthony Dove said Monday that the BOC will hear from Sheriff Kip Thomas at their next meeting on the purchase of vehicles — five Chargers and three Ford F-150s — for the sheriff’s office with SPLOST funds.
In a separate matter, the commissioners agreed to have Lewis seek bids on purchasing new Panasonic “Toughbook” laptop computers for ambulances. This will also paid for later with SPLOST funds but purchased up front with the county’s cash reserves. Lewis put the projected cost at $35,600 for eight computers. He noted that Jackson County EMS now uses those computers and gets good service.
Also Monday, the board agreed 5-0 to cover radio maintenance costs for the 11 volunteer fire departments. County 9-1-1 director David Camp said there have been some clarity issues with the fire departments on the old radios. The maintenance will help address that and will cost roughly $14,000 over the next year. Commissioner Pete Bond said one miscommunicated call due to a faulty radio could prove very costly to citizens in an emergency.
The board also approved Blanton Dove for a full-time EMS position. They agreed to purchase hooded rain jackets for six Meals on Wheels delivery drivers for the county senior center. This will help identify those drivers and keep them dry. County clerk Rhonda Wooten suggested the action. She noted that Gorilla Graphics will provide the jackets for $68, a markdown from the regular $90 retail price. The company will also provide the embroidery for free. Dove said part-time juvenile court judge Warren Caswell will soon address the board on being part of the county insurance plan. The chairman also said the sheriff’s office is in need of more office space and the group might look at moving the probation office into “Dr. Zuniga’s” old office on Hwy. 98, which is owned by the city of Danielsville. The sheriff’s office could then use the old probation space for interviews. County leaders have long expressed concern about having the probation office in the same building as the county 4-H program, which is located upstairs in the Sunset Drive building in Danielsville.
Monday’s meeting opened with a moment of silence for Brenda Jo Escoe, the late wife of commissioner Jim Escoe, and Marilyn Lambert, the late sister of commissioner Youngblood. Both passed away earlier this month.