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Unicoi County Search and Rescue requests $175K for equipment

The Unicoi County Foundation for Healthcare Inc. members Gary Chandler, Marie Rice, Charlene O’Dell, Doris Hensley, Unicoi County Foundation for Healthcare Inc. President Roland Bailey, Mitch Manuel and Eric Carroll inspect one of the new Unicoi County EMS ambulances. (Erwin Record Staff Photo by Richard Rourk)

By Richard Rourk

The Board of Controls for the Unicoi County Foundation for Healthcare Inc. met to hear presentations from area first responders on Thursday, Aug. 6.

The board first heard from Unicoi County Search and Rescue representatives Mike Adams and Bart Ray. According to Adams, Unicoi County Search and Rescue serves the county in areas that are remote to most citizens.

“We serve 50 miles along the Appalachian Mountains, eight miles of the Nolichucky River, Rocky Fork State Park, as well as the county and both (the towns of Erwin and Unicoi),” Adams said. “Nobody has the skills and training that we do.”

Ray acknowledged that the Unicoi County Sheriff’s Department used to be responsible for these remote area, but unfortunately due to staffing, an additional agency is required.

“Historically the sheriff’s department could do it, but at current levels, there’s no one out there that can do that due to personnel levels,” Ray said. “If we don’t do this, there is no one else that will.”

Adams and Ray made a request to the board for $175,000 that would equip the rescue organization for years to come.

“We are a volunteer service,” Ray said. “We are passionate about what we do and that’s why we are asking for money.”

According to Adams, the $175,000 would provide the rescue team with necessary tools to insure that future rescues are a success.

“We have two vehicles that need to be replaced, we need a boat, one all terrain vehicle (ATV), and a Kawasaki Mule,” Adams said. “A new ATV gives us access to trails and access roads on the Appalachian Trail. Having a vehicle that gives us access saves us time and can save lives.”

Adams acknowledged that the equipment will be shared with other agencies and will last for years to come.

“The rescue vehicles will be available for Unicoi County EMS and for the sheriff’s department,” Adams said. “We will also provide a driver. All of this equipment will last us 20-plus years.”

According to Adams, the long-term goal of Unicoi County Search and Rescue is to work closely with Unicoi County EMS.

“I’ve spoken to (Unicoi County EMS Executive Director) Adam Copas and our goal is to eventually become an extension of Unicoi County EMS,” Adams said. “This could be a possibility around 18 to 24 months down the road.”

The Board of Controls for the Unicoi County Foundation for Healthcare Inc. President Roland Bailey thanked Adams and Ray for their presentation.

“I appreciate your time and the job you do,” Bailey said. “We will definitely consider this and get back to you.”

Following Unicoi County Search and Rescue’s presentation, Unicoi County EMS Board of Directors Chairman John Mosley and Copas gave the Board of Controls for the Unicoi County Foundation for Healthcare Inc. a tour of one of the three brand new ambulances that is now the property of Unicoi County EMS.

“We really appreciate the $250,000 you donated; if it wasn’t for this board and for Mayor (Doris) Hensley getting grants, we wouldn’t have this service,” Mosley said. “We will have the best service and staff that this county has ever seen and that is because of you. I thank you for this gift.”

The funding for the three ambulances came from funds that the Town of Erwin and the Board of Controls for the Unicoi County Foundation for Healthcare Inc. has provided. Bailey presented the Unicoi County EMS Board of Directors a $150,000 check on March 13 to help out with expenses for the startup ambulance service. The remaining $100,000 check will be delivered sometime after Aug. 17, according to Mosley.

The three new ambulances and the director’s service vehicle are scheduled to start serving Unicoi County on Aug. 24.

Washington County/Johnson City EMS of Unicoi County is scheduled to serve Unicoi County until Aug. 24.