HARTSELLE, Ala. (WHNT) – The Hartselle City Council Tuesday night followed the recommendation of their Emergency Medical Services Committee and voted to end their 6-year affiliation with County EMS Ambulance Service and award the city’s exclusive ambulance service license to Crossroads Ambulance of Somerville.
Fire Chief Steve Shelton, who chairs the EMS Committee, told council members during a work session Monday night the switch was the unanimous decision of the 6-member committee.
“We have to make absolutely certain our residents are adequately protected,” Shelton tells WHNT News 19. “There were some concerns about the stability of the company after the passing of their previous owner,” Shelton said of County EMS.
Longtime ambulance service provider Terry Garwood died unexpectedly earlier this year. His son, Matthew, took the company over with no interruption in service and under the same city license his father had operated under. However, several weeks later three of the company’s five ambulances were temporarily repossessed in a move described by Matthew Garwood as a huge misunderstanding with their lender. Garwood said they simply overlooked updating contact information with the lender who, upon learning of his father’s death, and unable to immediately reach other company officers, ordered the three units seized to protect the debt. The ambulances were returned about a week later.
Shelton says city officials learned of the problem as a result of a report on WHNT News 19 as the ambulances were being taken. He says in the days that followed, city leaders decided to invite other ambulance service providers to apply for the city license. Hartselle allows only one ambulance service to operate from within the city in exchange for meeting a list of requirements regarding the level of service and number of vehicles and personnel available for emergency and non-emergency requests for service.
Invitations to apply were sent to 14 providers. Of the respondents, the initial list of six preferred companies was narrowed to three.
Three weeks ago, hours before the council’s last meeting, Shelton told WHNT News 19 the EMS Committee would recommend renewing County EMS’s agreement with the city. However, Shelton said “new information” came to light that afternoon, and the council voted to table the proposal. City Attorney Larry Madison told WHNT News 19 following that vote the new information would call into question “one of the three company’s qualifications to apply for and hold the city license.” He did not specify which company the information pertained to.
Crossroads Ambulance Service owner Candi Hayes says she will strive to provide, “the best service the area has ever had.” Hayes told WHNT News 19 Monday night, following the council’s work session, she has already acquired a number of additional ambulances and will be ready to serve the area when she obtains the license. Crossroads also acquired last week the exclusive ambulance service provider license in the Town of Falkville. County EMS had also held that license until recently.
Shelton says he will send County EMS written notification of the council’s decision on Wednesday, advising them their license will expire in 30 days. Crossroads will become Hartselle’s sole ambulance service provider at that time. Their license will be renewable annually with the option for either party to cancel with a 30-day notice. Their first six months with the license will be considered a probationary period.
WHNT News 19 spoke to Garwood following Monday night’s work session. When asked what his company will do now, Garwood replied, “We’ll be around.”