CROCKETT, TX (KTRE) - Houston County commissioners agreed to let County Judge Erin Ford to begin negotiating with a consultant that will help find a third-party ambulance service Monday morning.
In December, East Texas Medical Center told the county and the city of Crockett that they were initiating a 90-day notice that they would no longer be providing service to the county.
Ford told commissioners that the group needed to act now because time was running out. Ford told commissioners that himself along with Pct .1 Commissioner Roger Dickey are meeting once a week with city officials and board members from the hospital district.
"There's a lot of questions that need to be answered," Ford said.
Ford said he was confident that the commissioners would give him the go-ahead to hire an outside consultant, but that wasn't the case. The commissioners on hand Monday seemed to be behind the idea and the need for a new ambulance service but were concerned about the cost of the consultant.
"This is one of the first times we have had to deal with emergency services or the hospital, so I just wanted to be sure we are clear on who is actually responsible," said Pct. 2 Commissioner Willie Kitchen.
Ford told the court that depending on how involved the consultant gets the fees could be as low as $2,500 and as high as $18,000. Ford said there is a verbal plan that has the hospital district paying half of the costs and then the city and county splitting the other half.
The commissioners said despite their concerns they know something needs to be done.
"We all have family here and live here and have interest," Dickey said.
"With the three of us all working cooperatively and with us and having a good line of communication, we will be successful in acquiring ambulance service for the county," Kitchen said.
In the meeting, Crockett Fire Chief John Angerstein said the city also feels the need to get the process of moving for the good of the people.
"Regardless it is going to costs us," Angerstein said. "Whether we bring a third party in and we pay them or it's going to costs us to run our own EMS service. Either way it will costs. We are just going to have to see how our citizens will benefit from it and how much it will be affordable."
At the Dec.23 meeting, Ford told the court there were three options right now. The county could extend the contract with ETMC for a price of $600,000, hire an outside service or start a county ran service.
Ford also made it a point to make sure everyone in attendance at the meeting understood that the changes only affect Emergency Service District One. Emergency Service District Two, which is mainly the city of Grapeland runs their own service and will continue their regular services.
Ford said he hopes the hospital district will consider the issue at their Jan.20 meeting. Ford said it is possible the consultant could be hired by Jan.13.