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Jackson says it will leave SEOEMS

It was at Tuesday morning’s work session that the Lawrence County Commissioners learned that Jackson County wants out of the Southeast Ohio Emergency Medical Services. However, there was a possible loophole in the letter from the Jackson officials that the Lawrence commissioners received.

“On a motion by Mr. Edmund Armstrong and seconded by Mr. Tom Walton, it is the intent of Jackson County to withdraw from the SEOEMS district effective midnight Dec. 31, 2010,” the letter stated. “It was further stated in the resolution should SEOEMS be able to continue, Jackson would reconsider and possibly remain in the District.”

About a week ago, Athens County Commissioners voted to leave the tri-county ambulance service believing that county can provide the emergency service more cheaply.

SEOEMS, begun in the mid-1970s, has been under fire for poor financial management with all three counties recently putting in a total of $385,000 into the district to help it pay back IRS taxes, employee pension plan contributions and payroll. The plan was to sell the district’s six communication towers and switch to the MARCS system, used by the Ohio State Highway Patrol. That sale had the potential to bring in $1.7 million to the organization.

Also revamping administrative practices has changed the economic situation of the service whereby bills are now sent out within a 24-hour period of the ambulance run, compared with its former two-month lag.

The Lawrence commissioners were aware that Jackson could leave SEOEMS and had already set in place a contingency plan committee to offer options for the county.

At the time of Athens’ decision Commissioner Jason Stephens said, “We have a structure in place for EMS in Lawrence County. It is not going to be a deal that the ambulances are not going to come.”

On Tuesday Commissioner Les Boggs reiterated Stephens’ assurance.

“We will still have ambulance service. We know everything will remain the same until the first of the year,” Boggs said. “We are looking at different plans and different avenues. I feel this could be a positive for us to overcome this current challenge. I think it will be better for everyone in the long run.”