Tenn. ambulance deal up for vote; Millington, other parties set to sign on with Rural/Metro

SHELBY COUNTY, Tenn With a seal of approval from the Shelby County Commission, the enhanced ambulance contract through service provider Rural/Metro awaits the go-ahead from the county’s participating municipalities.

Millington officials said they plan to participate in the more expensive county-wide $2.88 million contract but have not yet confirmed their source of funding.

Millington Fire Chief Charles Carter said the city will draw from the general fund to pay for a portion of their $393,900 contribution. They’ll use part of an undetermined revenue source to pay the rest, Carter said.

Officials do not intend to increase property taxes to finance the service.

County officials say they’re optimistic that all of the municipalities will sign on with the exception of Memphis and Bartlett, who have their own ambulance provider.

“We’ve been given every indication that they intend to participate,” said Ted Fox, the county’s public works director.

Collierville is the only municipality still considering bids for its own contract and will vote on the issue next Monday.

The commission will also vote Monday on a resolution to approve an intergovernmental agreement between the county and interested municipalities. Should all parties agree on the contract, it will go into effect July 1.

If a municipality chooses not to participate, Fox said the contract would be delayed a few months to iron out the kinks. It would also mean the cost for the other municipalities would increase. However, there would be minimal impact on delivery of service, he said.

The $2.88 million contract, approved by the commission on June 11, doubles the number of ambulances in the county and nearly triples the cost of services. How much each municipality owes is determined by its percentage of total emergency calls. Millington makes up 13.7 percent of total calls and will owe $393,900.

Fire Chief Carter said Millington officials do not want to raise taxes but there is not enough in the general fund to completely cover the cost of service.

Because property values in Millington are lower than other municipalities, taxes would have to increase by a higher percentage relative to other municipalities to raise the same amount, Carter said.

“The value of Millington’s property isn’t has high as Germantown and Collierville,” Carter said, adding that Millington Mayor Terry Jones is looking at creative options to fund part of the fee.

James Lewellen, Collierville’s town administrator, said aldermen will choose on Monday between the $424,600 Rural/Metro contract and a Collierville-only contract through Knoxville-based provider Professional Medical Transport for $554,000. Pro/Med would cover the town with two ambulances plus another in reserve.

Germantown Fire Chief Dennis Wolf said its government would also vote on the $380,000 contract Monday night.

Although Germantown also sought bids for a Germantown-only ambulance service, Pro/Med’s $613,200 contract was more expensive than Rural/Metro’s. A joint Germantown-Collierville contract for $691,600 through Pro/Med was also nixed because that contract only included four ambulances for both municipalities, among other reasons, Wolf said.

Both Collierville and Germantown officials said the increased cost of services have been budgeted for the year and would come out of their general funds. and neither municipality plans to impose a tax increase.

Arlington and Lakeland officials have also given the Mayor a preliminary go-ahead on the contract.

The new contract would cost Arlington $128,300 and Haley said they included $120,300 of that in their budget. To fund the additional $8,000, “we’ll amend the budget but we won’t increase taxes,” he said.

Robert Wherry, Lakeland’s city manager, said the town approved the contract June 14. Like the other municipalities, Lakeland officials also included the $82,300 contract in their budget.

To fund the contract in the unincorporated areas, Wharton has proposed a fire tax that would tie the cost of fire and ambulance services to property values. The proposed tax would eliminate the current $327 county fire fee assessed to those in unincorporated Shelby and in Lakeland. It would also eliminate the need to use the county’s general fund – which all Shelby Countians pay into – for an ambulance contract that serves only part of the county.

Other municipalities could participate in the fire tax, but Germantown, Collierville, Millington, and Arlington officials already have said they will not opt for the tax.

On Monday, the commission will vote on a second reading of a countywide fire department which would be a requirement for the county tax.

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