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Commission passes resolutions, rejects ambulance amendment

The Unicoi County Commission worked through a full agenda during its regularly scheduled meeting on Monday, March 23, at the Unicoi County Courthouse.
Members in attendance at the meeting were Chairwoman Marie Rice, Walter Garland, Jason Harris, Bridget Peters, Gene Wilson, Glenn White, Loren Thomas and John Mosley. Commissioner Kenneth Garland was absent.
First, the Commission unanimously approved two resolutions honoring the late Dwight Bennett and the late Dwight Shelton for their many years of public service. A moment of silence was also observed for each individual following the reading of each resolution by Chairwoman Marie Rice.
Bennett was a former commissioner who passed away in November. He was serving on both the Unicoi County Board of Education and Town of Unicoi Board of Mayor and Aldermen at the time of his death. Bennett was also a veteran, a member of the Unicoi Ruritan Club and the American Legion, according to the resolution.
Shelton was also a former commissioner. He passed away in January. Shelton was a veteran who served in World War II under General Dwight D. Eisenhower, according to the resolution. Shelton received several medals for his service. He also served as a board member of the Unicoi County Memorial Hospital.
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The Commission voted “no” on an amendment to the ambulance service contract to allow the temporary location of a centralized ambulance service base to be placed within 1.5 miles of the Harris Hollow Exit.
The request for proposal (RFP) issued by the county and recently awarded to MedicOne Medical Response set the distance for the station to within one mile of the Harris Hollow Exit.
Representing MedicOne before the Commission on Monday was Ken Tipton who told the panel the company has been looking for a temporary location to place the station, but is having difficulty finding a location within the one-mile zone stated in the RFP.
MedicOne representatives have previously said they plan to build a permanent station near the Harris Hollow Exit and would use a temporary station until the new station is built.
Some of the members of the Commission expressed frustration that MedicOne has yet to find a temporary location.
“They knew this since they bid on the contract,” Wilson said. “They knew what was going on. They’ve had their chance.”
Voting to keep the distance at one mile were Harris, Rice, Wilson, Peters and Garland. Voting to change the distance to 1.5 miles were Thomas, Mosley and White. The 5-3 vote kept the distance at one mile, thus rejecting the amendment.
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The Commission also heard from representatives of Recover Appalachia, a faith-based substance abuse program serving Unicoi County.
White asked the Commission to consider providing the organization with a one time donation of $10,000 as soon as possible. White requested the panel use funds the county received from Mountain States Health Alliance for the sale of Unicoi County Memorial Hospital.
County Attorney Doug Shults advised the Commission that they cannot donate or spend money unless it has been appropriated.
“You do those appropriations through your budgetary process that you’re getting ready to do,” he added.
White said he would withdraw his request because the Commission must consider the donation during its upcoming 2015-2016 fiscal year budgetary process. He did ask the panel to consider giving the $10,000 at that time.
However, Rossanna Aldrich, who founded the organization, said Recover Appalachia is in need of funds now.
“I’m worried. If we wait until the budget in July or August or whenever you all vote on it, I’m worried we won’t be able to sustain it that long,” Aldrich said. “It will be very unfortunate for the children of this county if we have to shut our doors.”
Aldrich also told the panel she has requested funds throughout the past year.
During the Commission’s work session held prior to the regular meeting, Aldrich said Recover Appalachia has served approximately 200 individuals during the past year.
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In other business:
• The Commission unanimously approved County Mayor Greg Lynch’s appointment of Jesse Hensley to the Unicoi County Planning Commission and reappointed Rice and County Trustee Paul Berry to the Unicoi County Ethics Committee.
• The panel also accepted the election of Garland James to the Unicoi County Water Utilities Commission.
• Terms were also assigned for two committees by the Commission. Four members were assigned terms to the Unicoi County Audit Committee: John Harris and Dr. James “Mickey” Hatcher will serve two years each, while Rob Stromberg and Ken Kiesel will serve four years each. Seven members were assigned terms to the Unicoi County Industrial Development Board, which is also known as the Bond Board: JoAnn Cook, Jerry Ramsey and Paul Monk will serve two years, Pascal Bailey and Robert Kegley will serve four years while Garland “Bubba” Evely and Ted Hopson will serve six years.