ATHENS, Tenn. The new operator of McMinn County's ambulance service says it plans to improve and expand the system.
Med-Trans of Tennessee Inc. won a recent bid for the service and will take over July 1 under contract with McMinn County.
Owner Bruce Collins said he doesn't anticipate any problems hiring workers now employed by Woods Memorial Hospital.
"We had some initial staffing fears, but many of those currently on the service have applied for positions and we are taking the majority that has applied," Mr. Collins said.
Mr. Collins said the service now has three stations and three Advanced Life Support units on duty. The home office will serve as a fourth station, with its own ambulance, he said.
"Our building is ideally located to respond to Englewood, Etowah, Athens and County Road 750" in southern McMinn, Mr. Collins said.
County Mayor John Gentry said the contract will reduce the county's cost about $300,000. Med-Trans will be paid $235,000 a year for five years and will lease the county's ambulances until they are due for replacement, according to the contract.
The county will continue to own and operate stations in Riceville, Etowah/Englewood and Athens. The Athens station may be moved to a new facility, depending on funding, Mr. Gentry said.
Mr. Collins said he and his partner, David Kelley, also are opening a maintenance and service company called Smoky Mountain Specialty Vehicles LLC that will maintain "anything with a siren and lights," Mr. Collins said.
That will mean maintenance and repair can be done locally rather than sending units to Knoxville. Mr. Collins said the company is seeking maintenance contracts with other agencies and has plans to sell ambulance and rescue vehicles in Southeastern states.
Classes already have begun for the first-responder training course headed by chief paramedic Mike Frost. The course will give county firefighters additional training so they can quickly respond to emergency calls.