At the request of Councilman Bruce Jenkins, Mayor Pro-Tem Cris Eaton-Welsh chaired a discussion about a letter Kennedy received July 2 from the Georgia Department of Public Health informing the city that it was not complying to the state law and had until Aug. 1 to begin using its authorized EMS Region III provider, MetroAtlanta.
Georgia EMS has been responding to calls within the city limits for the last 14 years.
During the conversation, Mayor Mark Mathews, who is employed by MetroAtlanta, sat in the audience recusing himself. Kennedy was out of town and not present at the meeting.
Eaton-Welsh said she wanted the council members to talk about the issue “freely and openly” in public so that they could voice any concerns, solutions or opinions regarding the situation, adding at the end that she was “appalled and frustrated” with Kennedy’s decision to call Georgia EMS before talking about the letter with the council as a whole.
Councilman Jeff Duckett said it was the city’s obligation to follow the state mandate.
“We’ve been operating under false pretenses for all these years,” he said. “It may not give viability to what City Manager Kennedy did but … I happen to agree with his decision. We are a government body and if we aren’t abiding by the law, we are setting a bad example for the city.”
His fellow councilman Tim Killingsworth, spoke passionately about his love and admiration for the owner of Georgia EMS, Ron Kadner, but asked why he wasn’t there so that he could tell it to his face.
A representative from the company, Amir Adiri, said that he was the spokesperson for the ambulance service.
Like Killingsworth, Councilman Bill Thrash spoke about why he appreciated Georgia EMS’ service but like Duckett said that the state is who tells them whom to choose as an ambulance service and they must follow the law.
Jenkins spoke last, asking MetroAtlanta President Pete Quinones’ several questions about response times and services. He also asked the city’s 911 director Bobbie Duke to see if it were possible to coordinate her system with MetroAtlanta’s and to get costs back to them before their next meeting on July 16.
Additionally, like his counterparts on the council, Jenkins said that he believed Kennedy “jumped the gun” on telling Georgia EMS that they can no longer respond to 911 calls in the city.
“We should have discussed it in public,” he said. “It should have been handled a lot differently.”
The discussion took place during their regular work session and no action was taken on the topic.