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Supervisors approve AAA ambulance contract renewal

Supervisors on Monday voted 4-1 to renew an ambulance contract with AAA ambulance service that will see AAA effectively continue to serve all of Pearl River Co. as the company currently does.

The votes were, in favor, District Four Supervisor J. Patrick Lee, District Three Supervisor Hudson Holliday, District Two Supervisor Joyce Culpepper and District One Supervisor Anthony Hales. Voting no was District Five Supervisor Sandy Kane Smith.

The City of Poplarville’s board of aldermen have already approved the contract and the Picayune City Council is expected to approve it when the council meets Tuesday afternoon, said Mayor Ed Pinero, Jr., who was at the supervisors’ board meeting on Monday. He is the county planner.

Although the supervisors’ decision on Monday effectively gives AAA a lock on a full countywide service area, the contract renewal discussion and Monday’s approval did not come without some criticism of AAA and at least two supervisors — Hales and Smith — said they favored putting the contract out for bid.

However, AAA director Wade Spruill told supervisors that there is not a problem right now that cannot be worked out.

Board attorney Joe Montgomery, after reviewing the proposed contract, told the board he could not find any problems with it, that “it looks okay to me.”

Spruill also told supervisors that there had been some minor changes made to the contract, and that the major change was adding an additional ambulance to help cover the southern part of the county in and around Picayune. That would give the Picayune area five AAA ambulances on duty. Right now there are four.

Said Evan Dillard, CEO of Forrest General Hospital and AAA board chairman, “This is not rocket science. There is not a problem that we have that can’t be worked out and solved by those involved.” He said AAA serves nine counties in Southeast Mississippi.

Dillard said his understanding of any problems was that a “problem involving communication was the key.”

Smith, the only supervisor to vote against renewal, said that he was voting no because he had had a number of constituents complain about service and that he felt it should be put out for competitive bidding. “I don’t have anything against AAA per se, I just feel that competition is best,” said Smith.

Smith’s District Five takes in a portion of Picayune and some surrounding rural areas.

Smith and Hales indicated they believed the board had not been kept fully informed about any problems under consideration and concerning recent discussions about solving the problems and the proposed renewal of the new contract with AAA.

Hales said that he believes representatives of the three boards — Picayune, Poplarville and the county — should have gotten together and discussed the problems before anyone approved the contract.

However, Lee said that he had been in talks with AAA  and Picayune officials about the matter. Lee said he was aware of criticisms of AAA but added “that there is no problem we have that good communication can’t solve.” Lee is vice chairman and president pro tempore of the board of supervisors.

Lee, who moved that the contract be renewed, said he was aware that “quality health care” is of No. 1 concern to Highland, AAA and Forrest General hospital officials. He pointed to Highland administrator Mark Stockstill, Dillard, Spruill, Highland anesthetist Todd Lane, who is also a Picayune city councilman, and Highland ER director Chris Nash as officials with whom county officials can maintain constant contact in order to solve problems that might crop up.

AAA officials who addressed supervisors said that any problem that might arise would be addressed promptly and to the satisfaction of county officials, and would not be left unaddressed.

In other matters, supervisors:

— Awarded a low bid of $182,200.11 by Pearl River Paving Co. of Carriere for a bridge replacement project on Humphrey Road near the Crossroads Community.

— Approved a letter of recommendation and an $800 advertisement in a welcome-to-Pearl River County publication proposed by M&M Publishing of Picayune.

— Waived the usage fee for the county rodeo arena for the youth rodeo association, Pearl River Wranglers.

— Approved employment of an additional person in the JP Court System to serve warrants on persons who are in arrears on fines, in order to help collect fines that are past due.

— Approved a school bus-turnaround on Paradise Road.

— Approved travel requests for three persons from emergency management and the safety director to the Mississippi Pipeline Awareness meeting in Gulfport on March 15 and for the circuit clerk to SEMS training in Jackson on March 3.

— Adjourned to the next board meeting on Monday, March 7.