JASPER, Tenn. — Marion County officials are happy with their current ambulance service, so it's probably a good thing that company wants to stay longer.
At the Marion County Commission's February meeting, County Mayor David Jackson said the contract with Puckett EMS in Austell, Ga., was set to expire March 1.
The county sent out requests for proposals and advertised the job in local newspapers, he said, but Puckett was the only bidder.
"I'm glad to see them still aboard because they do an outstanding job," commission Chairman Gene Hargis said.
Commissioner Matt Blansett, who is chairman of the board's emergency services committee, said that group met several times with Puckett officials to discuss a new contract. The board vote was unanimous.
The contract states the company committed to a 12-minute response time for 90 percent of calls to urban areas and 20 minutes on 90 percent of the calls to rural areas. Puckett will keep two 24-hour ambulances on standby in Marion, plus add a third for 16 hours a day.
"Puckett has been doing for the last couple years on their own," Jackson said. "It was not in our contract. Plus, they provide support for the Marion County SWAT team, and they also provide service to our football games throughout the valley at no charge."
The county will pay $150,000 during the first year of the five-year contract, with 3 percent annual increases thereafter.
Marion will pay Puckett $168,826 during the final year of the deal.
Jackson said the county paid a flat $150,000 per year under the previous contract.
In other business, Commissioner Tommy Thompson said the county needs to address what he calls "all this unnecessary paperwork," which is creating a storage problem.
"We need to get us some people that know what they're doing with this computer system, and we need to bring them in here and let them do a study of our system," he said. "Quit generating all this unnecessary paperwork. I know some of the records have to have a hard copy, but most of it doesn't."
Thompson said the county bought a building several years ago that had a "big area" upstairs for storage.
"We thought, boy, we'll be good for years, and here five years later it's busting at the seems," he said. "There isn't enough room in the county to store all of that."
Thompson rejected the idea of hiring a part-time employee to handle the mess, saying the county "doesn't need to hire another person to shuffle papers and fan the dust around."
Jackson said he's been in contact with a company that would take the massive amount of documents and scan them to a county server.
He said a meeting would take place soon to discuss terms of a possible contract for the work.
"We may end up having to buy a new server because I'm not sure our server right now is big enough," Jackson said.
If approved, he said the company would do a trial run with documents from the mayor's office to "see how everything goes."
If successful, the scanning technique would branch out to other county offices from there.
The company would be licensed and bonded, Jackson said, so if "something personal" were to be exposed during the process, the company would be responsible for it.
"That takes a lot of liability off the county," he said.
Thompson said he thinks Jackson is "on the right track" to solve the problem.
Ryan Lewis is based in Marion County. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.