published Monday, July 30th, 2012

Marion County considering options for ambulances

John Graham stands in front of the Marion County Courthouse in this file photo.
John Graham stands in front of the Marion County Courthouse in this file photo.
Photo by Tim Barber /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

JASPER, Tenn. — When Marion County made the switch from Grandview Medical Center to Puckett EMS for ambulance service, county leaders said they were obligated contractually to buy Grandview's remaining vehicles.

County Mayor John Graham said each of the five ambulances the county owns costs about $53,000. Those ambulances are stored at the Marion County Highway Department, officials said.

Commissioner Donald Blansett said the county's contract with Grandview obligated it to buy the vehicles.

"The contract said we would buy those ambulances back," he said. "We had to buy them. We didn't have a choice."

Graham said Grandview tried to sell off its fleet of ambulances when it stopped providing ambulance service but was able to sell only one before the county took possession of the rest.

The contract stipulated that each side would get an appraisal for the vehicles and, if those didn't match up, the county would pay the average of the two appraisals, officials said.

"Our appraisals were about $30,000 less than the average, but Grandview just agreed to use the lowest appraisal," Graham said. "We were very fortunate that we did not have to pay the average."

The county recently put out a call for bids to buy the ambulances but didn't receive any offers, officials said.

Blansett said if the county tried to auction the ambulances there would be "no way we would recover the money we've got in them."

"If we try to take them to auction, they're going to go for nothing," Commissioner Tommy Thompson said.

Graham said he has been in touch with some brokers who buy emergency vehicles about the possibility of buying one or more of the ambulances.

"There are several other courses of action we can take," he said.

Officials said the board's Ambulance Committee will meet soon to discuss the issue.

"We're not pressed to get rid of them right now," Blansett said. "If we want to hang on to them and try to get some more money out of them, then that's what we can do."

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