EMS/Hickory Nut Gorge cover for void left by Rescue

Jun. 17, 2014 @ 07:40 AM

In the wake of Rutherford County Rescue ceasing operations until June 23, Rutherford County Emergency Medical Services (EMS) officials said things were covered over the weekend.

Rutherford County Rescue Chief Allen Emory said Friday that Rescue would halt operations for 10 days following the seizure of funds by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to pay back federal taxes.

Rescue staff had already decided to cut back from two full-time ambulances to one prior to the decision to temporarily stop services.

“It was very busy but Hickory Nut Gorge brought on an extra truck and we had an extra truck,” said Rutherford County Transportation Director Kerry Giles.

She said county EMS covered the Chase and East high school graduations Friday and Sunday, respectively while Hickory Nut Gorge EMS provided EMS coverage of the R-S Central graduation Saturday.

“Everything got taken care of without any delays or issues,” said Terry Baynard, EMS operations manager.

The decision to shut Rutherford County Rescue down temporarily and lay off its employees came following the seizure of $11,000 by the IRS from Rescue’s bank account to pay for back federal taxes. The total amount of back taxes was $18,000.

Operations were halted at 7 p.m. Friday for “at least 10 days” and Rescue’s board is scheduled to meet this week to determine the next course of action. A letter from Mike Souther, vice-president of the Rescue Board of Directors to the county stated the halt will only impact EMS ambulance coverage.

Emory and Rutherford County Rescue has been at odds with Rutherford County Commissioners and County Manager Carl Classen over a contract the county is requiring all rescue crews to sign before receiving the annual allotment from the county.

While Hickory Nut Gorge EMS signed its contract with the county, Emory refused to sign, suggesting signing the contract would remove day-to-day operational control from Rescue and put it in the hands of the county.

The seizure of funds is the latest in financial difficulties Rutherford County Rescue has faced since a complaint last year when Rescue claimed the county was taking “alpha” and “bravo” calls.

“We are going to do everything we can to survive this,” Emory said. “We’re just hoping we can come up with some kind of idea to get through it.”

County officials met Friday to discuss plans on compensating for the lack of Rescue coverage.

“If we need to bring on additional help, we will do that,” Baynard said. “Our main goal, as always, it to ensure the citizens of the county have emergency coverage.”

Giles added that the county and Hickory Nut Gorge will maintain an extra vehicle each through June 23 “until we know what will happen with Rutherford Rescue.”

Emory said he was aware of the back taxes but the withdrawal of funds took away operational funding needed for Rescue.