City gets ambulances
Stephanie Myers
While one mainstay ambulance service is emerging from Chapter 11 bankruptcy, another is making waves in Loudon County.

Lenoir City Council on March 14 approved a one-year agreement with Priority Ambulance, which was established as a company in early January, to provide emergency and nonemergency services within city limits.

Public Safety Director Don White said the decision to go with Priority was a “no-brainer.”

Previously, services inside the city were called into Rural/Metro stations outside city limits, either from the Loudon County Justice Center, Greenback Volunteer Fire Department or in Philadelphia.

White said having ambulances stationed inside city limits will cut down on response time, which could make the difference between life and death.

“They approached us with this offer, which we’ve never had before. We’ve never had an actual ambulance service inside the city limits. We’ve always piggybacked off the county contract, which has been Rural/Metro for quite some time, many years,” White said. “We felt like this was a win for the citizens and the visitors because of the quicker response time.

“When you have a major medical emergency such as a cardiac arrest or a possible stroke victim your response time can be critical whether or not the patient lives or dies,” White said. “If you can get to that individual and get them in immediate care of a paramedic or an EMT, and they can work with the patient on the way to the hospital and that response time is three-four minutes versus seven, eight, nine, 10 minutes. That is huge at the end of the day because our mission is to give them the best support and care that we can inside the city limits.”

White said Priority will have two ambulances manned around the clock inside city limits — one in the downtown area and another near the interstate. A third ambulance will be stationed in the city as a backup in case the other two units are out of the area.

“They can still bring in a fourth ambulance from another area,” White said. “I think they have 15 ambulances in the area, in the surrounding counties, so if they were trying to get here from Blount County, I mean it’s 18 miles basically to right there at the main intersection. They could get to the city within 15-20 minutes if it got that bad, but, most of the time, I mean right now there is no more than three or four ambulances for the whole county. We’re going to have three just in the city limits. I think that we should be covered.”

“I think this is a win-win for the citizens. Any time we can add a service like this  ... it’s a great thing,” Councilman Mike Henline said.

While Lenoir City Fire Department responds to emergency calls as a first responder, White said equipment is limited, and the agreement will also alleviate duties from fire department.

“Our EMTs will still be responding to cardiac calls, accident calls and things such as that, but non life-threatening calls that we go out on now such as someone breaking an arm in the back yard (Priority will respond),” White said. “They’ll be as close as the fire department. We’ve been responding for years from the fire department because we didn’t know what our response times would be depending on where the ambulances were.”

The service contract comes at no cost to the city taxpayers. “We just could not find a negative,” he said.

“One interesting thing I thought they were going to provide is some AEDs (automated external defibrillator) for the city buildings, which we don’t have now,” Mayor Tony Aikens said.

In other business, council:

l Approved a lease agreement for SunTrust bank to vacate the new Lenoir City Hall in June 2015.

l Adopted a resolution authorizing the issuance, sale and payment of an interest-bearing Town Creek Parkway extension grant anticipation note in an amount not to exceed $1 million. Lenoir City Administrator Jim Wilburn said the item increases cash flow for the city to pay bills and keep the project going. “It is a grant anticipation loan. That’s what it’s going to be used for,” Wilburn said, adding that he anticipates an August completion date of the parkway.