With less than a month to go before Ashe Medics begins providing ambulance services for the county, a tour of the company’s facility on Mt. Jefferson Road was provided to the county commissioners on Monday, June 2.
“We are already licenced, and are waiting for June 30 to come around,” said Craig Sullivan, owner of Ashe Medics. “This building has turned out to be a great place. I’m very happy with it and am overall excited about it.”
Originally the contract called for Ashe Medics to have three ambulances, but Sullivan has taken additional steps to provide more equipment and vehicles required.
“We are going to have six ambulances, four of which are brand spanking new and then two slightly used ones,” Sullivan said.
Sullivan also said he has talked to the different fire departments and law enforcement agencies in the county, since Ashe Medics will be working alongside them.
“The fire departments, and police we have talked to have been very supportive,” he said. “All employees that are hired, we have all of the paramedics. We’re ready to do this.”
Sullivan bought the building, the former location of Blue Ridge Energy Membership Corporation, in March and immediately started making improvements to the building.
“Nobody had been here in a few years, but it was a great fit for us,” he said. “Structurally, everything was in place.”
County Manager Sam Yearick also showed his support for Ashe Medics as it prepares to begin providing services.
“(Sullivan) has definitely brought enough horsepower to get the job done,” he said.
In addition, Yearick spoke about the base location and how ideal the place is for emergency services.
“First of all, it’s a great location because it is between the towns and I think it’s a better location because it is on a main road without stop lights,” Yearick said. “Plus, this building had been sitting here for all of these years and it was going down. This is a good building, and now somebody’s using it. I think that is a win-win.”
Later, the commissioners would talk about how impressed they were with Sullivan and his staff.
“I was really impressed with them,” said Commissioner Gerald Price. “One item that lays out on my mind are the new stretchers in those vehicles.”
Each stretcher bought by Ashe Medics costs approximately $12,000 and helps prevent straining on injured persons’ backs.
Commissioner Gary Roark also spoke about how the company had gone above and beyond what the contract called for.
“You put forth more than was required of you to serve the contract,” Roark said. “I for one am really proud of it.”
Changes in the contract:
During the Board of Commissioners meeting on Monday, June 2, a 4-1 vote was passed allowing Sullivan to reside at his residence 27 miles from the base of operation.
Commissioners Judy Porter Poe, Gerald Price, Gary Roark and William Sands voted for the measure while Larry Rhodes voted against it.
“I currently live 26.7 miles from our base, and I initially had some issues with the base location,” Sullivan said. “I had to switch up our bases and it put me outside of the 25 mile requirement. I’m 25 miles from the town (of West Jefferson), but I’m 1.7 miles further out from the base.”
Sullivan said he would like to have a little breathing room on the requirement and said it is his intention to move to Ashe County.
Commissioner William Sands said he originally wanted the people who bid to reside in Ashe County, but the board had settled on the 25-mile limit.
“You have a good thing going, and while it doesn’t meet the criteria, we just need to move on from that in my opinion,” he said.”
Sullivan said he could have positioned the Ashe Medics base somewhere else in the county and met the criteria.
“If it was in the Beaver Creek area, it would have been fine,” he said. “But it was best for us to put the base where it is at.”
Commissioner Roark showed complete support for Sullivan, saying that the county is benefiting from this contract, with getting more modern equipment and didn’t think 1.7 miles was a big deal.
“Personally, I don’t think we should ask a man to take his three kids out of school in one county and move them into another county,” Roark said. “I think that would be too far.”
Commissioner Poe said that debating over the 1.7 miles was “nit-picky” and the intention of that rule was to keep national ambulance companies from entering the county.
“I think the reason we put the milage in there is to keep large ambulance companies from coming in, signing the contract when their headquarters might be in California or somewhere like that,” she said. “I think to strike this from (the contract) is what we need to do.”
Following the vote, the Board then unanimously approved the ambulance franchise ordinace for 2014.
The ordinance contained the following agreements:
• Ashe Medics were granted a franchise for a six-year contract ending June 30, 2020, throughout the county.
• The Helton Ambulance Service was granted a franchise for a six-year contract ending June, 30 2020, specifically covering the Helton community in Ashe County.
• The Ashe County Rescue Squad was granted a franchise for a six-year contract ending June 30, 2020 to provide back-up for Ashe Medics and the Helton Ambulance Service.
• The Fleetwood Volunteer Fire Department and Rescue Squad was granted a franchise for a six-year contract ending June 30, 2020, to provide back up for Ashe Medics, Helton Ambulance Service and Ashe County Rescue Squad.
Wil Petty can be reached at (336) 846-7164 or on Twitter @WilPetty.