Ambulance panel hires attorney
The Eastern Carroll County County Ambulance District commission has hired Fayetteville attorney Curtis Hogue to provide legal assistance in the process of pursuing a long-term contract with an ambulance service.
Hogue met with the commission during an evening session on Thursday, June 22, that lasted for almost two hours.
Hogue said his rate is $275 an hour, billed in six-minute increments. He told the commission that he would not require a retainer fee, but instead will send a monthly bill.
Hogue’s first order of business will be establishing interlocal agreements between the commission and the municipalities in eastern Carroll County: Berryville, Green Forest and Oak Grove. Those agreements would allow the ambulance service provider selected by the commission to provide emergency ambulance service within the cities. An interlocal agreement with the city of Alpena also may be necessary, although there is is some ambiguity on that issue. Alpena straddles the Carroll/Boone county line.
Hogue said he would contact the city attorneys for Berryville, Green Forest and Oak Grove the next morning to begin the process of establishing the interlocal agreements.
The commission also voted to advertise for bids from emergency medical service consultants who could provide advice to the commission in preparing a Request for Proposals from ambulance services.
Green Forest Mayor Charlie Reece, who chaired an advisory committee that established preliminary specifications for ambulance service in eastern Carroll County as part of the process for creating the ambulance service district, cautioned the commission that hiring a consulting firm might create a significant expense.
He also urged the commission to quicken its pace toward awarding a long-term contract, cautioning against “paralysis by analysis.”
“That’s kind of where we’re headed,” he said. “… I keep hearing ‘consultants, consultants, consultants.’ I’ve dealt with consultants. They’re pricey.”
Commission chairman David Stoppel said a consultant would be able to evaluate the needs of the ambulance district based on call volume and other factors and advise the commission on how many ambulances are needed and where they should be located.
Reece, who recently authorized Southern Paramedic Service to accept emergency calls in Green Forest, expressed frustration with the process.
“I get impatient,” he said. “I’m sorry.”
“I share your concern,” Stoppel said. “I want to have it done immediately, too, but I also want to make sure we do everything correctly as we go. We don’t want to regret anything.”
Commissioner JoAnn Griesenauer said the commission is “walking on eggshells,” because of what she described as conflict over the ambulance district. Voters in eastern Carroll County approved an ordinance creating the district in the November 2016 general election. Voters also approved a 2.5-mill tax to fund the district’s operation.
“I’m going to just say it, because this has got to be said,” Griesenauer said. “There is a conflict in this town, whether they wanted the tax passed or they didn’t.”
“Well, it passed,” Reece said.
“Yes, it did, and that’s fine,” Griesenauer said. “But we catch things that maybe you don’t hear, that we hear. The first thing that was said to me was ‘We didn’t think the tax would pass.’ ”
“Well, I didn’t think it would pass,” Reece said.
“I’m not talking about you,” Griesenauer said. “I’m talking about what somebody else had said: ‘We expected it to fail. That’s why it was put up.’ I’m being honest here. I’m not gonna hide nothing. The second thing is that, there was a conflict because you were mayor and you were running for county judge, and then we’ve got the county judge, who was running for (re-election.) There was a conflict.”
“By whom?” Reece asked. “I didn’t have a conflict.”
“Between the county and city,” Griesenauer said. “What we’re trying to say is that, what we’re trying to do …”
“Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait,” Reece said. “Between county and city, there is no conflict.”
“We have to make sure it’s fair,” Griesenauer said.
“There is no conflict,” Reece repeated. “What are you talking about?”
“We appreciate your help,” Griesenauer said. “But at the same time, we have to make sure that we’re not just taking one side. We have to look at everything to make everyone happy about this.”
“You’ll never make everyone happy,” Reece said.
“I know,” Griesenauer said. “But we want to make sure it balances.”
Griesenauer said some people have threatened to sue the commission or ask state legislators to intervene.
“Tell ’em to bring it on,” Reece said. “… You do the best you can, and make a decision. The people that are upset, so be it.”
The commission will hold a workshop at 6 p.m. Friday, June 30, at the Carroll County Eastern District Courthouse in Berryville, to discuss parameters for advertising for bids from EMS consultants. The commission’s next regular meeting will be held at 7 p.m. Friday, July 7, also at the eastern district courthouse.