ELLIJAY,GA – At their May meeting, the Gilmer Board of Education approved an agreement with the Gilmer County EMS to provide two older buses from their fleet.
The buses are to be outfitted as Mass Casualty transport vehicles according to Public Safety Director Tony Pritchett. The process will involve taking out all of the seating and replacing them with medical beds as seen in this photo. Pritchett stated they have already begun talks to receive a grant to retrofit the buses.
Each bus will house 12 beds. The capability to transport numerous patients at once will allow the service to respond to events such as the bus crash on Highway 515 where ambulances are not enough. The process is accomplished by ready made conversion kits which they are currently preparing to install. Pritchett did not state a specific time frame for the process, but has already begun discussions on where to house the buses in a central location.
However, it is not only Gilmer County that will benefit from this agreement. Until now, the closest county with a similar buses is Floyd County. Now, Gilmer may be called upon in neighboring counties, something that is common for emergency services in need, as we will soon house the two mass casualty buses with the mass casualty truck and equipment.
Beginning the process to gain a new resource for Gilmer’s emergency services, Superintendent Dr. Shanna Wilkes and Public Safety Director Tony Pritchett formally signed the agreement during the meeting.
Georgia Governor Nathan Deal visited Fire House 1 in Gilmer County Thursday to officially sign House Bill 146 known as the “Firefigher’s Cancer Insurance Bill.”
Joined by several officials including Georgia House Speaker David Ralston and Senator Steve Gooch, author of the bill Micah Gravley, District 67 Representative, opened the ceremony by speaking about the two year effort to bring the bill to this point. Gravley related his interactions with two firefighters, Frank Martinez and Brian Scutter, who he said were the honor of the Bill as they fought for and spoke with legislators to get the bill passed, as well as the appropriateness to have the signing in Scutter’s home station in Gilmer County. Scutter was also mentioned by Speaker Ralston who said he had made a promise to Brian that he would give all that was in him to bring this day about. Turning to face Scutter, Ralston said, “I kept my promise.”
Governor Nathan Deal, who originally vetoed last year’s Bill 216 called the new House Bill 146 an “innovative and great solution to the situation.” Deal said the Bill provides relief for firefighters by providing a different method for compensation and money for treatment and care for firefighters who contract cancers during their work. Gravley thanked the Governor for his support of, as he called it, a “better bill.”
The sentiment was echoed by Speaker Ralston who said, “We have arrived at a better solution. By requiring a local government to provide insurance to our firefighters for certain types of cancer, the firefighter can skip the process of litigating a worker’s comp claim. This will allow the firefighter to focus on getting better and recovery rather than having to worry about legal bills and depositions and hearings.”
FYN caught up with Speaker Ralston and Governor Deal to ask them to elaborate on why the bill is better, comparative to last years Bill 216. The Speaker replied saying, “This uses a Health Insurance Model as opposed to a Workman’s Comp model which means instead of having to make a claim and perhaps go through a court type process to get benefits and income, Firefighters in this case will file a claim just like health insurance.”
Governor Deal also spoke on the insurance versus workman’s comp comparison saying it was an awkward and “adversarial way of deciding whether or not compensation is owed.” Deal went on to say the newer Bill is a much better solution “to provide insurance coverage that will define benefits and give some flexibility as to deciding the compensation that will be given to firefighters.”
More than Senators and Congressman came to see Deal sign the Bill, though. Several representatives from neighboring and local emergency services attended the event including Gilmer’s own Director of Public Safety Tony Pritchett who said the Bill “gives you a sense of protection… You can lay your head down and sleep better at night knowing that if you contract cancer because of the job, there’s some protection that will take care of you and your family.”
For more on the Signing of House Bill 146 watch the full ceremony below or find more Photos in our Album:
The Rough Ridge fire, located in the Cohutta Wilderness, expanded over the weekend to burn 21,533 acres as of Tuesday morning, November 15.
While Public Safety Director Tony Pritchett assures citizens there is still no immidiate threat to residents in the area, people are continuing to grow more uneasy about the lingering smoke in North Georgia. The smoke cover is part of a larger concern involving numerous small and five major fires that are pouring smoke over our region.
As authorities continue to battle the blaze, the have contained roughly 20% of the local Rough Ridge Fire, but as long as the fire keeps burning, Director Pritchett anticipates the smoke to persist for a while.
The effects of the smoke are being felt all over, one example being that the Gilmer Board of Education decided on Friday to withhold sending its younger students to the Veteran’s Day Celebration in Downtown Ellijay, instead only sending High School students from the Band and Chorus who chose to go out to participate in their contributions of music and song to the celebration. Superintendent Dr. Shanna Wilkes stated the event was not mandatory and students who had respiratory issues, health concerns, or general concerns with the smoke cover were not penalized for electing to not attend.
Shortly after the incident involving a wreck of a Tour Bus and a Semi-Truck on Highway 515 in Gilmer County, Tony Pritchett, Director of Public Safety for Gilmer County, held a conference to answer questions.
Director Pritchett stated a call came in to Gilmer County 911 at 11:02 for response to the accident.
When FYN arrived on the scene, several helicopters were still circling the area including both news choppers and Life-Flight services. The accident is suspected at this time by authorities to have occurred while a tour bus was traveling north on Highway 515 collided with a Semi-Truck who was crossing into or across the highway from Whitestone Road.
Minutes after the call came in, emergency response was on the scene to provide care and Gilmer County also responded with its Mass Casualties Trailer to aid in on-scene triage. Pritchett confirmed one fatality in the wreck belonging to the driver of the Tour bus. While four people remained uninjured, another 43 have sustained injuries requiring one to be Life-Flighted and others transported via ambulance to local hospitals including Fannin Regional Hospital, Northside Cherokee Hospital, and Piedmont Mountainside Hospital according to Pritchett.
FYN has been informed that the tour bus was carrying a majority of elderly passengers and had sustained extensive damage collapsing the front end. However, the quick response units were able to arrive and get on the bus quickly to begin caring for those on board.
More aid was quickly brought to the scene as well due to several mutual aid agreements in place with surrounding areas. In fact, authorities from Gilmer Fire and Rescue and EMS as well as Gilmer County Sheriff’s Department, Georgia State Patrol, Fannin County EMS Resources, Pickens County EMS Resources, Dawson County EMS Resources, and Murray County EMS Resources were all confirmed to be on-scene aiding with the incident. Pritchett went on to say he was “very thankful for the response of those surrounding jurisdictions, they were very helpful.”
While the limited sight distance at the location was referenced as a possible factor with the incident, no official statement was given with regards to cause or circumstance involved in the incident as the investigation is ongoing. Director Pritchett did confirm with FYN that he could recall at least one other incident involving a fatality occurring at the same location earlier this year. Witnesses have also been confirmed on scene and are speaking with officials at this time.
Currently, 515 will remain shutdown as a continuing investigation will be undertaken by the Georgia State Patrol and authorities are redirecting traffic around the accident. One traffic officer FYN talked with suggested those heading North on 515 to detour down Highway 136 to Old 5 to bypass it.
For more information on the accident and the Press Conference watch the video below and stay connected with Fetch Your News as more information becomes available.
Though not fully approved yet, the Gilmer County Board of Commissioners are considering an addition to the County’s EMS Services, specifically in the Ambulance Fees.
The new fee would encompass Ambulance calls to people who then refuse transport to the hospital. Originally presented to the Commissioners by Tony Pritchett, the new fee is said to be an answer to repeated calls by individuals who will then refuse transport in order to avoid paying for the medical care rendered.
One example offered at a Commissioners work session involved a person requiring services and an ambulance rushes out and administers Epinephrine to the patient. The patient then refuses transport to the hospital for follow-up care. Pritchett states that EMS then has no way to recoup the cost of medicines for the service.
While originally seemingly hesitant to begin applying a fee on all non-transport calls, the Commissioners are currently considering the following structure including a “zero-cost” for first time non-transport calls, but a $100 fee for repeated calls to help recover costs.
- “Fire chief” shall mean the Fire Chief of Gilmer County Fire and Emergency Services, Gilmer County, Georgia.
The following is the schedule of fees that shall be charged by the fire chief for ambulance and transport services rendered by the Gilmer County Fire and Emergency Services:
- Advanced Life Support Transport …..$550.00
- ALS LVL2 Transport …..$750.00
- Advanced Life Support Emergent …..$650.00
- Basic Life Support …..$400.00
- Basic Life Support Emergent …..$500.00
- Specialty Care Transport …..$850.00
- Non-transport …..$0.00 for the first non-transport, each successive non-transport $100.00
- Mileage (ALS and BLS), per mile …..$15.00
Mileage shall include the distance between the patient’s point of pickup and the receiving facility. This charge shall be applied for both in and out of county transports.
From time to time, upon the recommendation of the Chief of Gilmer County Fire Services, the above ambulance and transport fees may be revised as deemed necessary by resolution of the Gilmer County Board of Commissioners.
Collection of fees.
The fire chief shall issue invoices for such services as set forth in this chapter and shall collect such fees on behalf of Gilmer County.
Citizens are invited to offer their opinions on the change at a Public Hearing next Thursday, October 13, at 5:00 pm. The Commissioners are also holding their Regular Meeting following that hearing to vote on the First Reader of the change before a second-and-final reading would be held in November’s meeting.
Gilmer County Firefighters recently responded to a call on Yukon Road involving injuries to the resident. Gilmer County Public Safety Department Director, Tony Pritchett, offered the following on the call.
On September 26, 2016, Gilmer County Firefighters responded to a Residential Fire at 6316 Yukon Road.
Yukon Fire Station, which is located just down the street from the address, was the first to arrive on the scene in less than 6 minutes. Upon their arrival, heavy smoke and flames were showing from the home. A male who resides at the residence was found in the yard suffering from burn injuries. Medical personnel immediately began treating the man and transported him by air to an Atlanta Area Hospital for specialized burn treatment.
Firefighters quickly extinguished the fire and were able to keep the majority of the fire damage to one room, although smoke damage was sustained throughout the home. The male was just inside the door of the home and unable to escape on his own during the fire and phoned his neighbor for help. The neighbor was able to arrive quickly and help pull the man outside.
Yukon Fire Station is manned full time and this attributed to the quick response and treatment of the man and extinguishment of the fire.
“I would like to commend the B-Shift firefighters for their quick response to the incident and for providing excellent patient care and an aggressive fire attack. I would especially like to commend the neighbor for his efforts of getting to his friend so fast and saving his life by pulling him from the home.” The man is in stable condition and is expected to fully recover from his injuries.
The Gilmer County Board of Commissioners debated new proposals during their meetings on Wednesday the 10th and Thursday the 11th.
One major proposal would change the county’s EMS services. Though no formal approval has been made, consideration is underway for the Gilmer County Emergency Medical Services Division to begin charging a fee for repeated EMS calls to locations. EMA Director Tony Pritchett stated the need for fees were due to some citizens of the county continually calling 911 to receive certain medications without going to a doctor’s office.
The structure of these fees were discussed for several different possibilities, but the more probable structure may look somewhat like the following when citizens are calling 911 repeatedly for the same issue every time:
1st Call: No charge
2nd Call: a $75 Fee
3rd Call: a $100 Fee
Further Occurrences would also generate $100 fees and could be investigated for 911 Abuse
While citizens questioned the fees, Director Pritchett assured the citizens that they would not be liable as a 3rd party caller, or “Good Samaritan” situations, where they call 911 because they witness or come upon someone in need. The fees also seem to only be charged on repeat calls that do not result in Ambulance transportation as the effort is to recoup financial expenditures for the medications used.
In addition to the EMS Proposal, the Commissioners also heard a proposal from the Boys & Girls Clubs of Gilmer County. Requesting a lease property, Bill Slaughter, Treasurer, and Michelle Bracken, Director of the Boys & Girls Clubs of North Georgia, represented the organization and its effort to expand the Gilmer County branch due to a lack of space to support the increasing number of enrollments.
Currently, they have 125 children enrolled with an average daily attendance of 83. Bracken also stated the Club has had to turn away prospective students due to the limited space. The proposed solution is the construction of a new 4,000 square foot building across from the clubs current location. They would then remodel the current facility to house the enrolled teens. The building would be constructed by the Boys & Girls Club Board and only needs the County to lease the space for them.
When asked about the continued growth for the club, Bracken assured the citizens the proposal is set to cover the current needs under a two-year-plan. However, “We won’t abandon the building.” Bracken did not speak to a specific future plan, but did say that consideration to add on to the new facility later could be a possibility.
Another proposal before the Board on Wednesday came from Gilmer ARTS. President of Gilmer ARTS, Sharon Watkins came before the Board speaking of security in the their future. Many will recall that former President John Rathbone, also in attendance, has spoken with the Commissioners before about establishing a formal agreement with the County to include support in both public and financial forms. Watkins said the agreement would provide sought after security and “a better platform” as they requested Grants and Donations by allowing others to see the County officially in support of the arts in the community.
While Gilmer ARTS has been included in the County’s budget before, there has been no formal agreement between the two for the support. Watkins’ proposal did include financial support in the form of a proceed from the hotel-motel taxes, though discussion was raised if the county could allocate those funds to the Association.
Currently, the Board of Commissioners indicated they would support some form of agreement and are consulting with Gilmer ARTS and the County Attorney David Clark to formalize the agreement before officially voting on it.
Two final proposals were approved by the Commissioners to abandon a portion of River Hill Road where the bridge washed away and to close a 100 ft section of Kells Ridge Drive due to the December 2015 flood. Director of Public Works and the Road Department for Gilmer County, Jim Smith suggested closing the road instead of repairing due to estimations for repairs ranging into several hundreds of thousands.
To watch the two meetings click on the videos below for the Commissioner’s Work Session and Regular Meeting.