Wilson County Firefighters Group Opposes Privatizing Ambulance Service
by Mark Bellinger
MT JULIET, Tenn. - A Wilson County firefighters group is opposed to the proposal in Mt. Juliet to privatize ambulance service. Currently the service is provided by the county.
Wilson County Professional Firefighters Association says it's silly to hire a private company to do what the county is already doing using taxpayer money.
Mt. Juliet citizens pay a city and county property tax. The county tax helps pay for ambulance service.
When an ambulance is dispatched in Mt. Juliet it comes from Wilson County. The Wilson Emergency Management Agency or WEMA handles calls inside the city.
Now, Mt. Juliet is considering a proposal to replace WEMA with a private company called Medic One.
Mt. Juliet Mayor Ed Hagerty said, "We would have two ambulances, one on the north side and one on the south side, and we would have back up from Metro."
Mayor Hagerty said he won't support the privatization idea until it is thoroughly studied.
The proposal came from the fire department. Chief Erron Kinney wants to hire six new firefighters and privatize the ambulance service to reduce response times in the city. The ambulance drivers would also serve as back up firefighters.
At a city commission work session Chief Kinney and Assistant Chief Jamie Luffman pitched the proposal.
Luffman said, "The rates for treatment and transport provided by the chosen agency will be no more than those currently charged by the Wilson County Emergency Management Agency. This opportunity will be offered at no charge to the city of Mt. Juliet."
Lieutenant James Copas,Vice President of the Wilson County Professional Firefighters Association, opposes privatization. He agrees the Mt. Juliet Fire Department needs to get bigger, but not by privatizing the ambulance service.
Copas said, "We think it's a mistake. We think it's going to be a problem. Private companies are closing down across the country on a daily basis."
He points to the trouble in Humphreys County earlier this year as prime example.
In February Eagle Medical Service abruptly closed leaving the county without ambulance service. Dickson and Hickman County stepped in to help while Humpreys County searched for a new vendor.
Hagerty said that's just one issue to be studied before the city should consider hiring a private company.
"The issue the commission needs to consider is can a private company, one that is motivated by profit, can they perform this service the way they have represented," said Hagerty.
Mayor Hagerty said the commission shouldn't make a knee jerk decision and should study it before making a final decision.
There could be a vote next Monday when commissioners take a final vote on a new budget.Email: mbellinger@