Commission meeting

The Franklin County Commission conducts business Monday in its new isolated quarters in a meeting room in the Annex Building. The setting is geared to promote social distancing due to the coronavirus threat.

The Franklin County Commission approved on Monday to enter into a five-year contract with Shoals Ambulance LLC to be its primary service provider after the coronavirus pandemic placed A&E Emergency Services in financial difficulty, forcing the local company to join forces with another entity.

Shoals is based in Florence, Alabama, and is the parent company of Priority Ambulance LLC, based in Knoxville.

A&E, which transferred its debt to Shoals in a merger, will continue to operate under its own name under Priority’s ambulance license.

Ben Smith, a paramedic who owned A&E, said being able to operate under Priority’s license allows the merger to avoid an additional licensing requirement that could take up to 90 days.

He added that A&E can continue operating as normal.

The commission approved a resolution 14-0 to enter into the contract. Commissioners Sam Hiles and Gene Snead were absent from the meeting.

Smith said the ambulance service’s operations will remain the same with the only difference being the ownership change.

He said after the meeting that the pandemic reduced A&E’s patient volume by more than 50 percent in recent months because the public was being cautious in attempting not to be exposed to the coronavirus.

He added that the company could not amortize the investment it had made when it expanded last year to serve the county.

A&E became the county’s first-call ambulance service provider in June 2019, replacing American Medical Response.

The contract the county is entering into with Shoals has exactly the same requirements A&E had agreed to last year.

Shoals will be doing business as A&E and will serve Franklin County with the exception of the mountainous areas which will be handled by Grundy County Ambulance Service.

The resolution also says that all front-line ambulances must be less than 7 years old and have fewer than 250,000 miles on them. Backup ambulances are not to exceed 275,000 miles.

The service schedule is 24 hours per day, seven days a week.

Shoals will be required to have four 24-hour advanced life support units amid its fleet.

County Mayor David Alexander extended his thanks to the commission for approving the resolution to enter into the contract with Shoals.

“There has been no interruption of service to the people of Franklin County, and they have been taken care of,” he said.