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Unicoi County fails to reach ambulance contract decision, frustrated commissioner resigns

(WCYB/Caleb Perhne)

It was a heated meeting of the Unicoi County commission Friday night. It was a special called meeting to decide the future of thecounty’s ambulance contract with MedicOne. The commission decided to wait until its next meeting January 28 to decide what to do about the contract.

"I'm not going to be in this leadership position, thinking about what could happen,” Vice Chair Todd Wilcox said, standing up in front of the audience.

Wilcox resigned in the middle of the meeting. He said he was fed up with the process the county used to select its ambulance provider.

Wilcox made a motion to put the contract on hold until the next commission meeting, but there was no second. Commissioners later voted to put it on hold.

"I think you need to rethink this before you adjourn this meeting,” resident Johnny Day said from the crowd. “You have again walked on the citizens of this county."

Day has fought against the contract. He intensified those efforts following the commission’s decision in December to renew its contract with MedicOne.

"Getting complaints from citizens, first responders of not getting ambulances available. Sometimes there would be one in the county,” Wilcox outlined.

MedicOne was the only company to bid. Day argues that's because no other company received the request.

"It's only fair to the folks here in Unicoi County that we have other companies bid and the contract is awarded to the best,” Day said.

MedicOne's CEO Jim Reeves argued any problems are because of a shortage of paramedics applying for jobs. He said by phone that this contract renewal is already final. Wilcox disputes that.

"Our mayor thought that he was signing a draft,” Wilcox said.

That was a source of confusion at the meeting: whether signing a draft copy of the contract is binding.

Either way, Wilcox believes the bidding process was flawed.

"That was what I was arguing,” he said. “This whole process was done wrong. I wanted to go back and do it right, for the people.”

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