On June 1, 2022, the Greene County EMS met with the Greene County Commission to report on the status of the ambulance service
and the need for financial assistance to support the operations.
The Greene County EMS was represented by Joe Lee Powell and Dr. Marcia Pugh, Chair and Vice Chair of the Board of Directors and Chris Jones, Administrator. The County Commission was represented by Commissioners Allen Turner Jr., Tennyson Smith and LaPortia Brown; Commissioners Corey Cockrell and Roshonda Summerville were absent. Mac Underwood, Commission CFO and other Commission staff were present.
Joe Lee Powell presented a written report to the Commission listing $80,000 in contributions from public and private sources since March 10,2021, when the new board took charge of the service.
Powell told the Commissioners that Zack Bolding, Acting Director, had written a letter to the state EMS that the Greene County EMS was closing as of May 20. Bolding sent this letter on his own, without authority from the Board, that was working to raise funds to meet payroll and expenses. “We have informed the state that we never agreed to close down the ambulance service,” said Powell. He also informed the Board that Zack Bolding has resigned.
Powell clarified that he was reporting on funds handled by the Board of Directors and that there was another ‘operating account’ that the Board did not control. Funds from Medicare, Medicaid and from other payment sources for ambulance services went to the operating account in Merchants and Farmers Bank. The Board has not ben able to access this account in part because the bank says it was opened with a different EIN number than the one the Board presented to transfer control of the account.
Dr. Pugh indicated that the GEMS was transferring its billing to Capstone Billing in Tuscaloosa that specializes in billing for ambulance services and that new funds coming in for operations will be deposited in an account the Board controls.
Chris Jones reported that the ambulance services had moved from the old Warrior Academy building, that was cited for OSHA employee safety violations, to 502 Wilson Avenue, a red and gray house owned by the Greene County Health System, across the street from the hospital and behind the old Miles College building owned by the County Commission.
Jones said he was very pleased with the new accommodations which have operating bathrooms and a kitchen, as well as office space and room for staff to rest during 24-hour shifts. There is space next to the building to park the ambulances. The GCHS is providing the space rent free for the first three months to enable the GEMS staff to get acclimated to the space and determine if they really want to make it their permanent home.
Powell told the Commissioners that they had a need for funding from the sponsoring agencies, i.e., Commission and municipalities of Eutaw, Forkland, Boligee and Union to support shortfalls in the payroll, until operations are stabilized.
Commissioner Turner indicated that the Commission had provided $150,000, from American Rescue Plan funds toward a new truck-bed for remounting one of the ambulance boxes. He said other funds could be made available from the sponsors in response to a clear financial plan showing a budget and projected expenses for the next few years.
Councilman James Morrow from Boligee said he was concerned that the plan not over-tax small municipalities like his. Mayor Latasha Johnson of Eutaw said that she would continue to support the ambulance service but need a written request and budget showing the shortfall in payroll.
Powell said he, Chris Jones, Dr. Pugh and the Board members would work on the documents and reports the Commission and municipal supporters were requesting.