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Floyd EMS board to advise exploring fire-based service as contract deadline looms

The rear of an ambulance vehicle.
Floyd County officials may consider exploring fire-based EMS for ambulance services.

The Floyd County EMS Advisory Board will recommend the county commissioners reject the two bids on the table and explore a fire-based option for ambulance services.

The Floyd County EMS Advisory Board voted Thursday to advise the county commissioners to reject two current EMS bids and explore fire-based ambulance services for the immediate future.

Discussion by the board on the two bids started last month, after New Chapel EMS and AmeriPro Health responded to a recent request for proposals.

The board has also discussed in recent weeks looking at the third option — fire-based EMS services with the Highlander Fire Protection District. This would be an expansion of existing government services, rather than a private company.

Commissioners President Al Knable, who is on the EMS board but did not vote Thursday, cautioned board members on what the commissioners can legally do.

“Our attorney has been very clear that the commissioners cannot consider the third option that did not come through on these RFPs unless we reject the others outright,” he said.

He added even though all three commissioners sit on the EMS board, that formal decision couldn’t come Thursday, as the meeting hadn’t been advertised for commissioner action or discussion.

The EMS board voted 5-1 to recommend the commissioners reject those bids, to open the conversation about Highlander.

Commissioners Jason Sharp and John Schellenberger also did not participate in the EMS board vote.

The county has contracted with New Chapel EMS since 2017, currently paying $220,000 annually.

That contract expires at the end of May.

County officials said they’d already planned to put out the request, to update service needs and expectations ahead of the contract expiration.

But Knable told LPM News last year they were expediting that process due to the ongoing criminal investigation of former New Chapel CEO Jamey Noel.

AmeriPro’s bid would cost the county just over $1.5 million annually for three ambulances and a quick-response vehicle. They also provided a cheaper option with one less ambulance.

New Chapel’s bid was for three ambulances and a paramedic response vehicle, with the ambulances to be at advanced EMT status within 18 months. That contract would cost $960,000 the first year, increasing to just under $1.02 million in the third.

Some board members and other county officials have expressed concern about entering a new contract with New Chapel — questioning the organization’s performance, as well as transparency and financial stability as allegations against its former leader continue to surface.

Noel is facing 25 criminal charges, including some alleging that he charged personal items and services to New Chapel over several years. His wife and daughter are also charged.

Current CEO Matt Owen confirmed the New Chapel board put Noel on administrative leave following his arrest in November and terminated him in January.

An attorney representing the organization filed a recent lawsuit alleging they can’t access certain credit card accounts that Noel has controlled.

The ultimate say regarding the contracts or agreement falls to the commissioners, with the county council responsible for approving funding. Commissioner Sharp, who leads the EMS board, said when they convene, the commissioners will first decide whether or not to deny the current bids.

“And we can either open up … RFPs again, or we can go with another option,” he said.

Sharp said he’s also been in talks with local fire unions in recent months on the possibility of transitioning to fire-based service long term.

If that proves to be too costly or not viable, he said officials could look at a county-based municipal service.

A special commissioners meeting is scheduled for 5 p.m. Wednesday. It’s not clear whether they’ll make a decision on the EMS board recommendation that day or at a later meeting.

Coverage of Southern Indiana is funded, in part, by Samtec Inc., the Hazel & Walter T. Bales Foundation, and the Caesars Foundation of Floyd County.

Aprile Rickert is LPM's Southern Indiana reporter. Email Aprile at arickert@lpm.org.