Trending Topics

Ind. county officials debate benefits of private and fire-based EMS

Floyd County officials are undecided on ambulance service options


A New Chapel EMS ambulance.

New Chapel EMS/Facebook

By Brooke McAfee
The Evening News and the Tribune

FLOYD COUNTY, Ind. — It is unclear how Floyd County officials will proceed with EMS coverage as opinions remain mixed on which option to choose.

The county commissioners and council debated the subject at a Friday joint meeting. Officials are considering two bids from private EMS agencies, including New Chapel EMS and AmeriPro Health, but many county officials would like to pursue a fire-based EMS service.

However, some officials are questioning the feasibility of pursuing the hybrid EMS option at this time.

New Chapel EMS is the county’s current ambulance provider. The existing contract is set to expire at the end of May.

The commissioners have received bids on potential three-year contracts from the two EMS agencies.

On Tuesday, the Floyd County EMS board tabled a recommendation on an EMS contract, opting to receive information on the possibility of a hybrid EMS-fire service from Highlander Fire Protection District before proceeding.

The EMS board is expected to issue a recommendation at its next meeting, which is scheduled for 5 p.m. next Thursday at Pine View Government Center.


Al Knable , president of the Floyd County Commissioners, said he is concerned about entertaining a third option from Highlander Fire while the two bids from New Chapel and AmeriPro are on the table. Highlander did not respond to the commissioners’ request for proposals, which was issued in December.

He said he obtained advice from Rick Fox, the commissioner’s attorney, on the matter. Fox told him that “we should not entertain a third option unless we reject the first two in order to avoid any sort of liability on that RFP process,” Knable said.

“We have to be very, very cautious even entertaining such numbers [from Highlander] since we put out an RFP and we have two contracts before us,” Knable said.

He emphasized the tight deadline the county is facing to select an option for EMS coverage as the current contract is set to expire. New Chapel EMS is not giving Floyd County an option for a month-to-month agreement, he said.

Many officials have voiced concerns about New Chapel EMS amid the ongoing criminal investigation into Jamey Noel, the former Clark County Sheriff and co-founder of the EMS agency. Noel is facing 25 felony charges, including counts of theft, tax evasion, corrupt business practices, ghost employment, official misconduct and obstruction of justice.

Officials have also debated for years whether to pursue another agency due to concerns about response times and quality of service from New Chapel.

Floyd County Commissioner John Schellenberger said the county is faced with “one of three choices” for EMS.

“The first choice is to pick one, the second choice is to pick the other and the third choice is to deny them all, which we have the authority to do,” he said. “We’ve done that before on other bids as well.”

Floyd County Commissioner Jason Sharp said county officials are seriously considering fire-based EMS, but he does not want to rush into implementation of that model without adequate preparation. Sharp also serves as a firefighter with the Jeffersonville Fire Department.

He said the county needs to conduct a geographic information system study to understand what kind of assets are needed for fire departments, and officials need to consider affordability.

The county has the “opportunity to do it right the first time,” Sharp said.

“If you don’t do it right the first time, if you set it up and it fails, I promise you it’s going to be much more expensive than what you’re looking at right now,” he said.

Schellenberger questioned whether the county should veer away from a three-year contract with a private provider.

Knable said the commissioners have the ability to negotiate the length of the contract, but he feels that county officials should be prepared for at least a one-year or two-year contract with one of the private agencies.

“I think the most realistic plan is going to be for us to contract with someone for one to two years, and then purposefully and diligently bring on the fire-based system if we find out that the numbers make sense,” he said.

Schellenberger said one possibility would be to consider one year with a contractor while also pursuing a “parallel path” to implement a fire-based EMS service that could eventually take over.

Floyd County Council President Danny Short voiced concerns about whether Highlander Fire — previously the Lafayette and Greenville fire districts — would be the correct option for EMS ambulance service, saying the “ball has been dropped many places” over the years.

“They had ambulances for 10 to 15 years and never budgeted to replace them like they do other apparatus,” he said. “They never increased the training levels of anybody on those ambulances, so those are all opportunities that were missed.”

Schellenberger said that local fire departments are already responding to EMS calls in Floyd County but noted the need to increase personnel for fire departments in order to provide EMS service.

“What needs to be done with fire-based EMS, [to] my understanding, is you man up and you have people to man both ambulances in addition to having people to man the fire trucks,” he said. “It’s working right now because when a call comes in, someone from the fire district is responding. But when you look at the term working, that pales to where it should be working.”

Floyd County Council Member Tony Toran said the county should keep the fire-based EMS possibility “at the forefront,” noting that he was hoping to receive proposals from Highlander Fire.

“I think that we need to exhaust every effort and do the taxpayers’ due diligence,” he said. “This is safety — public safety — that we’re talking about, and I think that all options need to be on the table.”

Floyd County Council Member Brad Striegel said if county officials “don’t invest in our own fire departments to do the right thing, we’ll be here again and again and again.”

“It’s time to invest in our own backyard,” he said.

Staffing shortages and timing are concerns for Floyd County Council Member Connie Moon, and she does not believe the fire-based option will work in the available timeframe.

“There’s already a national shortage of EMS workers and paramedics, so it’s going to take longer than average to hire people because we don’t have a very good pool,” she said.

Striegel said although the county is facing a tight deadline, he feels that action can be taken in that period to move toward fire-based EMS.

“But moving the goalposts and saying we’re not ready, we’re not ready, we’re not ready...we’re not doing ourselves any justice on that,” he said. “I think we need to explore this much further.”

Floyd County Council Member Dale Bagshaw expressed reservations about Highlander Fire’s ability to step in for EMS service.

“I would conclude...they don’t have the ability right now to do that, to have countywide service,” he said. “That’s why they didn’t put in an RFP, in my opinion.”

Floyd County Council Member Denise Konkle said the county needs to consider what could be offered by local fire departments.

“This is a public safety issue, and we have to make sure that we provide services,” she said. “And we can’t have any lapse of time. I understand that, but we also have to do the right thing for the taxpayers.”

Sharp said if the county focuses on the data and takes its time to create a countywide hybrid model, it has “the potential to build a system in Floyd County that everyone could be proud of.”

“We don’t want to just wing it,” he said. “That’s the worst thing we could ever do.”

He praised the work of Floyd County’s fire departments.

“We have some outstanding firefighters and outstanding fire departments here in Floyd County,” Sharp said. “We truly do. It’s not about them letting us down. It’s about us letting them down by not giving them the tools and the equipment — what’s necessary to properly do their job.”

(c)2024 The Evening News and The Tribune (Jeffersonville, Ind.)
Visit The Evening News and The Tribune (Jeffersonville, Ind.) at
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.