Camilla CAMILLA, Ga. — The Mitchell County Commission has voted to privatize the county’s ambulance service, a move that could save the taxpayers more than $400,000 a year, county officials say.
Macon-based Mid-Georgia EMS will take over operations May 1, officials say.
Interim County Administrator Jerry Permenter said that the move provides a glimmer of optimism in an otherwise bleak financial picture.
“By my estimation, had we privatized the EMS services last year, we could have saved $473,000 with the savings primarily coming from the reduction in personnel costs,” Permenter said. “I’d like to say that this type of situation is the end of it, but, quite honestly, as we work down through the issues here, all of the options are staying on the table.”
Permenter said that he met with the EMS staff Wednesday morning to update them on the situation. Mid-Georgia EMS also began conducting interviews and began the application process.
“Right now it looks like they’ve got enough full-time positions for all but six of our people,” Permenter said. “Those other people will be offered positions within the company but, at this point, they’ll only be part time.”
EMS Director Ann Lamb will be re-hired, he said.
But not everyone is happy about the deal. A group formed on Facebook asking that EMS not be privatized was critical of the move.
“Sorry make that 3 outstanding medics gone. One being a supervisor. This is insane. The commissioners have completely forgotten about the people they represent,” one post said.
Pelham resident Stuart Glenn called the move by the commission “underhanded.”
“I’m upset with how the County Commission has handled this whole thing. Citizens should have been able to have a voice in this. We will when election time comes,” he posted.
Like other local governments across the state, Mitchell County finds itself stuck between a state government that has hindered the ability for county governments to generate revenues by freezing tax assessments, increasing exemptions and altering tax laws, and the county residents who depend on — and expect — county services at certain levels while not tolerating a property tax increase.
“You really find yourself in a crunch situation,” Permenter said. “Not only have our tax rates not increased, our assessments have been frozen so our options for generating revenues are slim. And at the same time, we’ve had inflation and personnel costs go up.”
Mitchell County is also suffering from a bit of a debt crisis. Currently 15 percent of the county’s operating expenses go directly to servicing debt, which takes a chunk of the available revenues needed to fund county services.
“We’re looking at cutting the big-ticket items now in hopes of getting some better financial results,” Permenter said.