County starts own ambulance service

Published 10:56 am Thursday, November 11, 2010

Names Fry as director for $52,000 a year

The senior member of the soon-to-be defunct Southeast Ohio Emergency Medical Services district will now head up the new Lawrence County ambulance services.

Buddy Fry, Rome Township station chief for SEOEMS, was named director of the newly formed Lawrence County Emergency Medical Services during the Lawrence County Commissioners Wednesday meeting.

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The commission met a day earlier than its regularly scheduled Thursday date because of Veterans Day.

Fry, who was one of the first trained paramedics in the state, will take over as director on Nov. 29, at an annual salary of $52,000.

He will perform the same role that SEOEMS director Eric Kuhn did for the tri-county district at a salary of $76,000.

The appointment came after the commission went into a 30-minute executive session, which resulted in six motions that set the wheels going to start the ambulance service.

“We don’t feel we have the time for a lengthy process,” Commissioner Les Boggs said.

Tuesday night the three-county board of SEOEMS approved the dissolution of the district that has provided ambulance service to Lawrence, Jackson and Athens counties for the past 40 years.

The vote was six to three, with only Lawrence County’s representatives wanting to keep the district.

It was this spring when the economic woes of SEOEMS gained public attention as the district struggled to make payroll and pay retirement plans and back taxes.

Soon a new bill collection system was initiated along with cash advances from the three counties to get the overdue bills paid.

However by summer Jackson and Athens county commissioners voted to leave the district.

A Columbus-based medical service consultant, called in by the Lawrence commissioners, said SEOEMS had a chance to remain financially viable. That report did not change the earlier decision of Jackson and Athens.

“We can’t be in a district that doesn’t have any partners,” Commissioner Jason Stephens told the audience at the commission chambers Wednesday that included SEOEMS employees. “You look at Scioto County which has no countywide ambulance service. Gallia County has only one station. The level of service that SEOEMS has provided to Lawrence County has been excellent. If you need an ambulance it will be there pretty quickly. But we are acting on some plans we have in place.”

The commissioners formed a five-man board that will oversee the new emergency services agency and expects to appoint members in the next week.

They also voted to request the Lawrence County prosecutor determine how much vacation and sick time SEOEMS employees who join the new service could transfer.

Stephens said a “ball park figure” of employees in the new agency will mirror the number of Lawrence County SEOEMS employees: 29 full-time and 40-50 part-time workers.

“One of the big concerns with benefits is health insurance,” Stephens said. “We have talked to our health insurance provider and he assures me we will have insurance coverage effective Jan. 1.”

Since SEOEMS dispatching was done from Gallipolis, the new service will have its dispatching done out of the 911 office in Ironton. Commissioners voted to give 911 director Lonnie Best a $7,000 raise. Best will now make $42,000.

Boggs will also establish a financial plan to determine if the new agency can purchase five more ambulances. If so, they will be added to the ambulances already owned by the county.

All other assets from SEOEMS will be divided among Athens, Lawrence and Jackson counties in a 40-40-20 ratio after the end of the year when the dissolution goes into effect.