JASPER, Tenn. - Marion County commissioners know they want a better deal for ambulance dispatching services than the one they have with Grandview Medical Center.
They're just not sure how to go about securing one.
Last week, Commission Chairman Gene Hargis recommended charging Grandview $80,000 per year for the dispatching services the county now provides the hospital for free.
Municipalities across the county now pay $50,000 each per year for the service, officials said.
Hargis said about 60 percent of the county's radio traffic is used for ambulance dispatching.
"If our cities pay for it, then it's only fair that [Grandview] should have to pay also," he said. "We've talked about this for six or eight months. We talk about things and we talk about things, but now it's time to do something."
The board's Finance Committee has discussed the issue of charging a fee to Grandview for dispatching services, Commissioner Wayne Willis said, but it has not made any recommendations on specific amounts.
Jamie Lawson, director of marketing, public relations and volunteer services for Grandview, said the company is studying the issue.
"At the moment we are reviewing the recommendation and obtaining additional information," he said. "We are unable to release a statement at this time."
County Mayor John Graham said Marion now pays $180,000 per year for the ambulance service and found it "a little odd" that county funds are used to dispatch for Grandview, a private company.
County administrators admit there has been no contact with Grandview on the issue, and Commissioner Mack Reeves suggested officials send out a request for proposal to see if the county could get a better deal from a different company.
"Why are we funding a for-profit entity when we're asking everyone else to make sacrifices?" he said. "If we don't get something that we think we could live with, we can stay with what we have."
Marion's current ambulance service agreement with Grandview runs through the 2012-13 fiscal year, County Attorney Billy Gouger said, and sending out requests for proposal letters would not violate the contract.
"I know of three ambulance services that are very interested in working with the county," Graham said. "I agree that we need to send out a request for proposal to see what comes back."
Commissioner Tommy Thompson said that when the current contract was completed years ago, the county had to bend to get it done.
"We had some other proposals on the table, but we had to sweeten the pie to get anybody to take it," he said. "Maybe that's all changed now."
Even though most commissioners agreed with the request for proposal idea, they could not agree on exactly what information should be included in it.
The board decided to table the discussion until its next meeting July 25 to allow the finance and ambulance committees to address the issue more thoroughly.
"I think it's definitely something that should be explored and pursued," Graham said.
Ryan Lewis is based in Marion County. Contact him at email@example.com.