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2017-04-19 / Front Page

Oneonta supports ambulance advisory board

by Jim Kilgore

Oneonta city councilors unanimously passed a resolution of support for an ambulance service advisory board, following a presentation by Blount County 911 director Caleb Branch. Branch's review included questions and answers concerning operation of the planned board.

In his remarks, Branch noted that municipalities provide 15 percent of the 911 funding. He indicated he had learned that that body carries oversight responsibility for county ambulance service.

Branch's agency has proposed establishment of the nine-member, countywide advisory board to provide "contract oversight" to its selected ambulance provider. The board would write the contract specifications, handle the bidding process, award the exclusive contract, and then monitor performance for the contractor. Oneonta city manager-economic development officer Ed Lowe asked of enforcement powers.

Branch advised that through the monitoring process, the board could determine fines, should service drop below the stated contract parameters. As an example, Branch explained that should the specifications require 95 percent of responses take no longer than 20 minutes and the provider drops below that threshold, then the board could impose fines directing those payments toward fire departments, further training, or other similar ancillaries to improve service.

In later reports, Lowe announced the city's approval for a $73,000 FAA grant toward property acquisition at the city's airfield. He noted the funding hinges on congressional appropriations for the national omnibus bill. He opined congress's likely approval of the bill.

In another funding concern, library director Ricky Statham asked councilors and attendees to press their congressional representatives to maintain funding for the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS). Under President Trump's proposed budget, the IMLS will lose its funding, thus impacting numerous grant-competitive programs offered by public libraries over the nation.

Statham provided a handout with congressional contact information and a sample support letter. He added that IMLS funding represents 0.006 percent of the federal budget.

The council approved a resolution declaring April 29 Jacksonville State University Day. The local JSU chapter has announced president John Beehler will attend their annual lunch, scheduled for 11 a.m. that day at the Anchor at Highland Lake.

Councilors scheduled a public hearing for comments on alcohol license requests from Twin Oaks at Heritage, Pounders, and Toke restaurants (see accompanying alcohol review board article) for April 25 at 5:15 p.m. in council chambers.

Blount County-Oneonta Chamber of Commerce director Aimee Wilson had noted the scheduled grand opening of Pounders restaurant scheduled for Thursday, April 20. Councilor Tonya Rogers asked Lowe of other announced restaurants, Toke and Zaxby's.

Lowe explained he does not know the hold-up with Zaxby's but asserted it is not on the city's side. He said he had told them they do not have to hold a building permit to begin moving dirt and that the city has offered them free chert from the city's pit. He noted Toke appears nearly ready to open as evidenced by its requested alcohol license.

Mayor Ross Norris and councilors Hal Blackwood, Nathaniel Butler, and Richard Phillips joined Rogers for the April 11 meeting; Councilman Danny Robinson missed the session.

Councilors recessed into executive session prior to adjournment. The council meets each second and fourth Tuesday of the month at 5:30 p.m. in city hall.

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