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Unicoi County exploring options for new ambulance service

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UNICOI COUNTY, Tenn,. - Unicoi County is still having trouble responding to all their emergency calls because of a lack of ambulances. Now, Erwin Mayor Doris Hensley is proposing a plan to move away from their current provider, Medic-One, and create either a town or county run ambulance service.

"We have given Medic-One so many opportunities," Mayor Hensley says. "I feel like they haven't lived up to their contract."

The contract calls for three ambulances and a backup, but right now, there are only two in the county for about 18,000 residents. That's why Mayor Hensley says she's ready to cut ties with Medic-One, with or without backing from the county.

Harry and Brenda Bodemann run BottomLine Technologies, the consulting company Mayor Hensley contacted to look at the factors of starting a town run service. The Bodemann's tell News 5 they specialize in small counties, because they're a small company themselves.

"We'll look at how you've operated in the past," Bodemann says. "Get some statistics and look at what we can do for you in the future."

The ambulance service would have a start up cost of up to $500,000 dollars, but Mayor Hensley says she thinks she can get the money.

"We have already applied for a half million dollar grant for an ambulance service," she says.

If the town of Erwin does decide to go through with plans to operate it's owner service, Unicoi County Mayor Greg Lynch tells me the county doesn't really have any other option but to jump on board.

"They have 75 to 80 percent of the calls," he says. "It wouldn't be feasible to hire an ambulance service for the county and the town of Unicoi."

The county's current contract with Medic-One runs through April of 2019, but there's a clause that allows them to get out at any point as long as they give 90 days notice.

The Bodemann's tell News 5 they've previously helped set up ambulance services in seven other counties and believe they could have one up and running in Unicoi County in about four months.

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