By Richard Rourk
Confusion and chaos filled the Unicoi County Courthouse on Friday, Jan. 18.
The proceedings ended with Unicoi County Commission Vice Chairman Todd Wilcox stepping down in his position as vice chair and leaving the special called meeting. Wilcox handed his signed resignation as vice chairman of the Unicoi County Commission to Mayor Garland “Bubba” Evely during the meeting. Wilcox will remain on the commission.
“I decided to write the resignation letter a few days prior to the special called meeting pending the outcome,” Wilcox told The Erwin Record.
Wilcox made a motion to reconsider the Dec. 17, 2018, vote to give MedicOne the contract to provide ambulance services for Unicoi County, but could not find a second.
“The citizens are always on my mind and providing an ambulance service to the citizens is one of the most important concerns to me,” Wilcox said.
After three calls for a second without response, the motion died. It was then that Wilcox stood up and addressed those in attendance, handed his resignation to Evely and exited the meeting.
“This was an important decision for you all, the citizens of this county, and I will not be put in this position thinking about what could happen,” Wilcox stated.
During the Dec. 17 Unicoi County Commission meeting, the commission voted to approve the bid and contract with MedicOne, in a 6-2 vote with Commission Chairman Loren Thomas abstaining.
The bid and contract would start in April 2019 and run until April 2023. County Commissioner and Ambulance Committee Chairman John Mosley made the motion to approve the contract with MedicOne and County Commissioner Jamie Harris seconded the motion during the December meeting. The vote followed the recommendation made by the Ambulance Committee during a meeting at the Unicoi County Courthouse on Dec. 14.
During the Jan. 18 meeting, there was confusion among a few of the commissioners following the death of Commissioner Wilcox’s motion.
“I want to discuss this but I do not want to break a contract, but I would like to get all the information,” Commissioner Glenn White said.
Unicoi County Commissioner Stephen Hendrix called for civility in discussing the matter further.
“I don’t have a problem with the issues being raised,” Hendrix said. “These are legitimate issues. It’s the other stuff I take issue with.”
There was concern among some that there were flaws with the contract.
“There are a lot of flaws in the contract, and there’s a lot of questions that need answers,” County Commissioner Marie Rice said.
White asked Evely to place the item on the agenda to discuss the ambulance situation further during the Jan. 28 Unicoi County Commission meeting.
“Do your research and we can discuss it then,” Commissioner Jamie Harris stated about the future meeting.
Previously, concerned citizen John Day addressed the commission to ask for more time to explore options. Day, who was a candidate for Unicoi County mayor last year, questioned the status of MedicOne CEO Jim Reeves, who was an auxiliary officer with the Unicoi Sheriff’s Department in the past and to see if it was a conflict of interest in representing MedicOne. Sheriff Mike Hensley confirmed that Reeves was with the department in the past as an auxiliary officer, but confirmed he was not a paid county employee.
“Mr. Reeves was an unpaid, auxiliary officer and was an asset to the department,” Hensley said.
Day questioned if the contract that was signed with MedicOne is a valid one or just a draft.
“We are going to find out if it’s a contract, even if I have to pay for an attorney myself,” Day stated.
After an open forum, the commission voted unanimously to adjourn, with Thomas abstaining and Wilcox absent from the vote.
The commission will have to be cautious with their next move, according to discussions last week. The county did place a notice in a local newspaper to request bids last year, and MedicOne was the only company that responded at that time. If the contract with MedicOne is considered a valid contract, the county could be considered in breach of contract, if the contract is sent back out for bid.
“If the contract is deemed valid and enforceable then we are bonded to it, so I will then take the stance to make sure that the conditions are met in the contract for both parties,” Wilcox said. “If the contract is not valid, I will request to rebid the services the correct way.”
The Unicoi County Commission will meet again on Monday, Jan. 28, at 6 p.m. in the large courtroom at the Unicoi County Courthouse to discuss the ambulance situation, among other county issues.