published Wednesday, September 11th, 2013

A&E Emergency Services seeks Franklin County ambulance service contract


Members of Franklin County's Emergency Services Board are County Mayor Richard Stewart, Sheriff Tim Fuller, 911 Board member Dr. Gerald Smith, Director of Communications Kathy Blazer, County Commission Chairman Eddie Clark, Scott Smith of the county's rescue squad, representatives of the county Fire Chiefs' Association and Southern Tennessee Medical Center, and County Commissioner Angie Fuller.

The bankruptcy announced last month by Franklin County ambulance service provider Rural Metro Corp. opened the door to competition from a new, Decherd, Tenn.-based ambulance company.

Franklin County Mayor Richard Stewart said A&E Emergency Services last month approached the County Commission's Legislative Committee seeking to be placed on the commission agenda to discuss a switch.

Stewart said the company's proposed resolution was referred last week to the County Commission's Emergency Services Board.

Stewart, chairman of that board, said a meeting date has not been set.

"We'll look at that resolution along with Rural Metro and all aspects of the ambulance service," he said of the review process.

Neighboring Grundy County's ambulance service already helps Franklin County in remote Sherwood and Anderson communities to the east, he said.

Beyond that arrangement, Stewart said no other joint operation -- such as one involving A&E and Rural Metro -- has been discussed.

"We're just now getting started looking at options," he said.

A&E owner Ben Smith was in training classes all day on Tuesday and unavailable for comment, according to officials at the Decherd office.

But a posting on the A&E's Facebook page aimed at generating support for usurping Rural Metro appears to set out the company's intent.

"If you are dissatisfied with the current county 911 ambulance provider then it's time to let your voice be heard. It is time for some action. Contact your county commissioner and tell them you want change," the posting states.

A&E officials pitch the company as a hometown operation that will keep its earnings at home.

A&E officials expressed interest after Arizona-based Rural Metro announced it had filed for bankruptcy last month in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Deleware. The company sought authorization to use $40 million of the company's $75 million Debtor-in Possession financing to help support operations and was authorized "to pay for all going-forward goods and services."

Rural Metro's bond holders also committed to investing an additional $135 million of new equity, which officials say will position it for new growth.

Rural Metro President and CEO Scott A. Bartos said the agreement cuts the company's debt by half and will keep it "moving forward."

Spokesman Adam Pollack has said the company will not comment beyond the August news release.

Officials in Loudon, McMinn and Polk counties -- the other Tennessee communities in the region that Rural Metro serves -- say there have been no problems related to the bankruptcy.

Contact staff writer Ben Benton at or 423-757-6569.

about Ben Benton...

Ben Benton is a news reporter at the Chattanooga Times Free Press. He covers Southeast Tennessee and previously covered North Georgia education. Ben has worked at the Times Free Press since November 2005, first covering Bledsoe and Sequatchie counties and later adding Marion, Grundy and other counties in the northern and western edges of the region to his coverage. He was born and raised in Cleveland, Tenn., a graduate of Bradley Central High School. Benton ...

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