Commission reviews EMS provider, budget, policy revisions

By Mike Steely

Senior Writer

A four-hour work session of the Knox County Commission last week covered several issues including possibly re-organizing their meeting schedule, revamping the beer board, discussing the upcoming budget vote, and hearing the American Medical Response report.


Emergency Medical Services update

The first four months of EMS service last week were detailed by American Medical Response Regional Director Josh Spencer. He reported that AMR is working with new tools to provide more direct medical care and listed those tools as improving communications with phone calls and visits by nurses, new employees, higher salaries and public education.  Spencer said response time is better and improving and a sub-contractor ambulance service is helping.

Brad Anders, director of Knox County Emergency Communications, said bringing Emergency Medical Services into the 911 system is ongoing. Almost one million dollars is going to updates at the Baxter Street headquarters and at the back-up facility at the Public Safety Center. He said 911 is adding and training 20 new employees and the updates should be completed in 12 to 18 months.

The AMR response time may be further improved with the future opening of a new emergency room at UT Hospital.

During public forum, Mitchell Bennett, father of a son who suffered a major health crisis, said that repeated calls for help saw no ambulance arrive. He said that three ambulances were available to respond but did not. Bennett said he had to deliver his son to the hospital by himself.

Commissioner Carson Dailey said the need was never relayed to the Seymour Fire Department, who would have responded.

In a related business, Commissioner Kim Frazier was chosen to become the first at-large county commission member of the Knox County Fire and Technical Rescue Committee.

New budget with no money for parks?

A discussion on the proposed county budget, which must be passed before the end of June, is on tonight’s commission agenda. The public hearing on what Finance Director Chris Caldwell called “a billion-dollar budget” is scheduled for today at 4 p.m.

At-large Commissioner Kim Frazier asked why the proposed county budget has no funding for county parks. Parks and Recreation Director Joseph Mack responded that the funding has been moved to specific line items within that budget.


Beer Board may re-organize

There are currently two members of the Knox County Commission who are opposed to the sale of beer and the licensing of beer retailers, and their opposition to those transactions came up last week during the commission work session.

Commissioner Gina Oster, chair of the beer board, had a couple of ideas for reforming the procedure when someone applies for a license or is called before the commission beer board after a reported violation of beer sold to minors.

Oster and the Rules Committee are suggesting that the beer board be composed of seven members, not the entire commission membership. That way anyone opposed to the drinking or selling of beer could abstain from membership.

She is also suggesting that all beer board member votes be by “roll call” so each decision could be known to the public.

Commissioners Rhonda Lee and Richie Beeler have abstained or not spoken on applications or hearings, with Lee saying that her district would be penalized if she could not vote on penalties for violators. Beeler, a minister, said that his silence on beer board actions is often recorded as a “Yes” vote.

“I am constrained by my covenant,” Beeler said.

In the case of a beer board realignment, Commissioner Kyle Ward suggested that at least one at-large commissioner serve on that body so all of Knox County is represented.

Deputy Law Director Mike Moyers said if the board is made up of seven members, then four votes would be considered a majority in any vote.

“Why fix something that isn’t broken?” said Commissioner Dailey.


Commission may move meetings

Several changes regarding commission meetings proposed by Commissioner Courtney Durrett were discussed last week and that discussion may be taken up again today. She amended her motion to begin the changes in June rather than September.

The proposed changes include moving the Zoning session to a separate day, holding an informal agenda review in Room 640 instead of the Main Assembly Room, holding the public forum session at 3 p.m., and handling all of the other business in the monthly regular meeting.

Durrett said the changes would “eliminate redundancy.”

The proposals met with several comments and Commissioner Dailey wondered how the changes may affect newly elected members. Dailey suggested delaying a decision for six months after the upcoming election so new members can “get their feet wet.”

Richie Beeler said, “I support these, it makes too much sense not to do it.” John Schoonmaker noted that none of the upcoming candidates were present in last week’s meeting and have little idea how the commission works.

Commissioners Schoonmaker, Dailey, Beeler, Kyle Ward and Dasha Lundy are either term-limited or not seeking re-election. Chairman Terry Hill and Durrett are seeking re-election so at least five new members and possibly seven will be seated in September.

The discussion resumes today at the regular commission meeting.