“The direction that was given to the City’s 911 operation resulted from a letter the city received from the State of Georgia Department of Public Health on July 2,” Kennedy told the Journal on Monday. “That department controls the zone providers of EMS services. The action taken was to keep the city in compliance with state law which directed us to dispatch MetroAtlanta Ambulance Service.”
That letter, sent from the Georgia Department of Public Health through its Office of Emergency Medical Services and Trauma to Kennesaw Mayor Mark Mathews and the City Council, says all emergency calls in the city should be handled by MetroAtlanta, the designated ambulance provider for most of Cobb County, including Kennesaw. The city was given until Aug. 1 to comply.
The state got involved in who provides ambulance service for Kennesaw after receiving a number of complaints from MetroAtlanta over the last six months about Georgia EMS responding to 911 calls outside of the city limits.
MetroAtlanta Vice President Devan Seabaugh has said his company had been fine with the unofficial arrangement the two companies were operating under until Georgia EMS tried to expand outside Kennesaw, including into Acworth and unincorporated Cobb.
Georgia EMS owner Ron Kadner said his company was fined $8,000 for the complaints, but a rebuttal hearing has not been scheduled.
MetroAtlanta owner and president Pete Quinones said Monday that he was pleased with the state’s decision to forward all business to his company.
“We’re looking forward to working with the City of Kennesaw,” he said. “We’re going to deliver the same high level of patient care and at the same time customer service that we do elsewhere in the county.”
He wouldn’t say how much additional revenue the transition would bring his company but said it wouldn’t generate much profit because he would have to add employees and ambulances.
Quinones serves on the EMS Region III board, which covers Kennesaw.
Kadner said he is “heartbroken” about the change.
He said Kennedy called him on Friday and gave him about 24 hours to stop responding to calls in the city.
“We’re kind of scattering around and trying to figure out what we’re going to do,” he said.
Kadner said losing the city’s business will cost his company about a half-million dollars a year and that he will have to resort to providing non-emergency service to nursing homes and urgent care facilities.
“Lots of people will be looking for jobs,” he said. “I told all the employees about it Saturday when I was passing out paychecks. I told them we will continue to pay their salaries for two more weeks.”
Kadner has four ambulances and 12 employees.
One of them is David Ermutlu, who has worked part-time for Georgia EMS since 1997. He said Tuesday that he wasn’t surprised by what happened.
“What the city did, notifying Georgia EMS by phone and only giving 24 hours notice, is extremely unprofessional and unethical,” he said.
“The letter from (the state) asked for a response by Aug. 1. After 14 years of devoted service to the city, they could have given Georgia EMS some lead time to work on securing other business to soften the blow of losing the 911 calls.”
Ermutlu said he believes the decision was made in such a “quick fashion” because he filed an ethics complaint against Mathews last week after an Open Records request revealed that the mayor had conducted work business with MetroAtlanta from his city-issued computer and phone, and on one occasion emailed Quinones about MetroAtlanta business.
Mathews is MetroAtlanta’s manager of government relations.
However, Mathews said the decision had nothing to do with the complaint and that the city is following the state law regarding ambulance service providers.
“If the city is operating outside or in conflict with the state laws or legal regulations, it is my responsibility just as it is for each council member to be operating within the laws and legal regulations,” he said.
If the city were interested in continuing a work relationship with Georgia EMS, they would have to go through the state legislature to draft new legislation that would allow them to use the company and not follow the regulations of the Region III board, Mathews said.
“You have to follow the rules, the laws and the Constitution,” he said. “It would take a formal action authorizing staff and/or an attorney to proceed with whatever rules changed to make whatever happen.”
Mathews said he would recuse himself during the city council’s discussion about the issue tonight.
“I will step down as chair of the discussion and turn it over to Mayor Pro-Tem (Cris Eaton-Welsh) for the discussion,” he said.
Eaton-Welsh said the city needs to comply with state law.
“This has been an issue for 14 years and should have been addressed many years ago,” she said. “I was hopeful that this was going to be about what was best for our community.”
She has contacted representatives from both MetroAtlanta and Georgia EMS and Region III and asked them to attend the meeting.
“I was hopeful that an amicable solution between Georgia EMS and Metro could have been reached so our citizens would continue to have the best available, in my opinion, that comes from both companies working together,” Eaton-Welsh said.
She wasn’t sure if the city could do anything about the state’s decision but wanted the city to at least be able to bring their solutions “to the table.”