The Timpson City council met to discuss the fate of the Timpson Volunteer Ambulance Service (VAS) dispatch at the meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 15. It was another full meeting hall as many members of the Timpson Volunteer Ambulance Service and concerned citizens were at the meeting to voice their concerns.
Timpson Mayor Debra Smith stated that a form that was presented by the Timpson VAS was an agreement from the prior administration in the late 1970s. Smith presented the agreement with Timpson VAS to Cary Bovey, City Attorney, for his review. Smith says that Bovey stated that he was not involved in the agreement, and Mayor Smith stated that city records have been reviewed at the city and Tracy Lee with the Timpson VAS had checked records at the ambulance service and no further information could be found connected to the agreement. Mayor Smith stated that the agreement was pre-911 and that it basically was an agreement between the city and the ambulance service to put the tower in the city, and upkeep the equipment while providing dispatch services both by the city and by the ambulance service dispatchers. Mayor Smith says that the agreement is what would be referred to as a “gentleman’s agreement.”
The council heard from members of the community and members of the ambulance service who are concerned about switching the dispatch of the ambulance service from Timpson dispatchers to the 911 system. Jill Hailey, EMT and concerned citizen, was the first to speak and she presented the council with a letter which she read to the council.
The letter posed several questions to the council as to their knowledge of several facts involving the dispatch of the ambulance and emergency situations. Some of these questions pertained the Shelby County Sheriff’s Department dispatch as she stated they will only page out the call twice and if the personnel do not hear it within those two attempts, the call will be passed to someone else. She stated that an ambulance that is dispatched from Center will take approximately 30 minutes to get to someone in the Timpson area.
Hailey also stated that currently, if the Timpson VAS is on a call in the Caledonia area that they cannot communicate with the dispatchers at the Shelby County Sheriff’s Department. She also pointed out that if an individual calls 911 from their cell phone the call will go to the nearest tower and that this will sometimes be a tower that is outside of the county, such as in Panola County or Nacogdoches County. This means that emergency personnel from one of those counties may be dispatched to the scene. These are only some of the items that Hailey addressed with the council.
Hailey remarked that the Timpson VAS has been in service for Timpson for 34 years, and that the City of Timpson does not provide any support financially besides the $15,000 a year that is paid to the Timpson VAS dispatchers.
Paul Smith, Timpson Chamber President/concerned citizen, spoke to the council about the dispatch and said that he really appreciated the letter that Hailey read. He stated that because he is sure that everyone has done their research on the subject, he wanted to let the council know that the majority of citizens that he has spoken with are for using the 911 system that is already in place in the county.
Jason Terry, Timpson Volunteer Fire Department Chief, was scheduled to be on the agenda but was responding to a fire call at the time of the meeting. At the November 2012 city council meeting Chief Terry spoke as a representative of the fire department and said that they could work with the 911 dispatch and be able to set up a system for paging out the fire department
Nathan Ramsey, paramedic and Timpson Volunteer firefighter, addressed the council and stated that Chief Terry does not speak for all members of the fire department.
Ramsey explained that the Shelby County Sheriff’s Department dispatchers are not medically trained meaning that they are not EMS or ALS. He said that even in the instance of a call that ACE EMS is dispatched for, ACE EMS handles their own call and has four dispatchers to do this. Timpson dispatchers have to work under the same scenario and there would be a breakdown without the dispatchers in Timpson to handle the call.
Ramsey said that 911 in Shelby County does not have a medical director and that when they receive the call they cannot give direction for CPR or any other kind of medical help. Ramsey suggested that the City of Timpson donate the $15,000 to the ambulance service, allow for 911 dispatch during the day for Timpson VAS, and that the Timpson VAS dispatchers handle the calls at night as they have always done. This would demonstrate if 911 will work for the Timpson area.
Tracy Lee, representative for Timpson VAS, addressed the city council and she stated that the discussion is not just about the night dispatchers, but the whole ambulance system. The Timpson VAS does have its own dispatch number for fire and ambulance dispatch and it is 254-2323. Lee explained that all ambulance services have their own direct line to their dispatchers, outside of 911. She said that the only 911 system in Shelby County is in Center, and that they will then contact the appropriate ambulance service dispatchers depending on the area the call is originating from. Lee states that if the Timpson VAS dispatchers are removed then this would be the start of the demise of the Timpson VAS. Lee asked for the city to provide the $15,000 this year to give the Timpson VAS ample time to come up with a plan to continue to provide the dispatchers in Timpson and remove any liability from the city.
After much deliberation it was decided to table the discussion of the Timpson VAS dispatchers until a meeting can be established between the city, Timpson VAS, Shelby County Sheriff, Nathan Ramsey, and Cary Bovey. This is to help end any confusion about how the system would work, and to come to a resolution on the issue so that all parties can come to an amicable agreement on the situation.
See the Friday, Jan. 18 issue of The Light and Champion for the remainder of the meeting results.