At a special called meeting of the Board of the Greene County Emergency Medical Service on Monday, May 23, 2022, Board Chair Joe Lee Powell announced, “ We are committed to keep the ambulance service open and running for the people of Greene County. We will work with the County Commission, municipalities, major employers and anyone else who wants to work with us to maintain and improve the service.”
Powell also announced the resignation of acting director Zack Bolding from his position and the appointment of Chris Jones, as Acting Supervisor of the GCEMS. Jones is an advanced EMT on the staff, which will allow the service to retain its ALS-1 rating and provide full services.
Dr. Marcia Pugh, CEO of the Greene County Health System, who is Vice-Chair of the ambulance board, said that Bolding had never been authorized to send a letter to the state Office of EMS, dated May 16, 2022, that said the Greene County EMS was scheduled to suspend operations, effective May 20, 2022 at 1800 hours. This information was broadcast over many local TV stations.
“We did not suspend operations last Friday and we are still operating now,” said Powell. He indicated that the Board had support to make payroll for staff on that date but that Bolding had not submitted the employee data necessary to make the payroll.
Bolding presented Powell with bank statements from the EMS operating account in Merchants and Farmers Bank but he whited out all the payees on the checks to make them worthless as records for any kind of investigation or audit. “We will have to get another set of records from the bank, to get the information we need,” said Powell.
This incident highlights a problem facing the Board for the past two years since Bennie Abrams and Stanley Lucious retired from the GCEMS. All monies earned by the system from ambulance services go into the operating account which was not controlled by the Board. Abrams. Lucious and others controlled and signed on this checking account. The Board tried to get control of this account but were blocked by the bank due a disagreement over the Federal EIN number used to establish the account.
The GCEMS Board opened a separate account to deposit and spend funds they raised to support the operations and purchase of new equipment for the system. The staff directors, first Nick Wilson and then Zack Bolding, did not assist the Board in unifying the funding control of the service. Because of this divide, it has been difficult for the Board to establish financial direction and control of the service. The Board had difficulty in answering financial operating questions about the services to agencies, like the Greene County Commission and various municipalities, like Forkland, Union, Boligee and Eutaw that wanted to help.
“Hopefully we will be able to correct these and other problems affecting the system, now that we have a new director and some better grasp of our finances,” said Dr. Pugh.
Powell announced that the GCEMS Board has received new donations from various sources including $5,000 from WestRock, $1,000 from the First Responders Committee of Greene County, $10,000 from TSP Support League, to add to $50,000 from the Sheriff’s bingo discretionary fund, $30,000 from Greenetrack, $5,000 from the Town of Boligee and other donations previously reported. Some of these funds are for general operations and other funds are for specific equipment needs. The County Commission has agreed to fund a $100,000 retrofit of an ambulance box on a new truck chassis, which is planned for this summer. The City of Eutaw purchased major life-saving equipment for the service in the past year.
The GCEMS Board will be meeting with the Greene County Commission on June 1, in their scheduled work session, to discuss future operating support for the ambulance system. The Commission and municipalities are expecting a second injection of funding from the American Rescue Plan, which can be used to help with the ambulance service and other pressing problems.
The City of Eutaw is planning a benefit basketball tournament, this weekend at the old Carver Gym to benefit the ambulance service.
“We are developing an immediate crisis plan to keep the service going while we make a longer-range plan for its continuing operation and survival,” said Powell.