Union Co. officials nix plan to cut back on some emergency services

by: Kathryn Burcham Updated:

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UNION COUNTY, N.C. - Union County officials are scrapping a controversial plan that would slash the number of ambulances during non-peak hours and position them along the Highway 74 corridor.

Commissioners said the public outrage following a Channel 9 story about the proposal led them to rethink the plan.

"I think anytime you start looking at change, of a different type of system or delivery model, it causes concern," said commissioner Jonathan Thomas.

Concerned citizens had filled public meetings about the plan and emergency responders also expressed concern that the proposal would lengthen response times to rural parts of the county.

"I wouldn't feel as safe with it that way, because we are in Weddington and from 74 to Weddington, it would probably be 30 minutes," said resident Linda Dowdle.

Channel 9 obtained an internal email sent by EMS director Scott Shew warning employees there to not speak to the media about the controversial plan.

Despite that, one EMS worker sent Eyewitness News an anonymous letter listing their concerns about the proposal, saying it was causing EMS employees "extreme stress" and that "coverage of the county is going to decrease, especially at night."

Union County officials paid a consulting firm $105,000 to develop the plan, which was meant to make the system more efficient and save money.

"What had been proposed by the consultants was a very unique and different type roll out system," Thomas said. "But this point we are looking at more of a static-type deployment where we would have ambulances at certain sections, rather than moving them throughout the county."

Thomas said a new contract could be drawn up by September.

Read past coverage: Union Co. may cut some emergency services