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Political heavyweights brawl over Dale medical services

Two powerful Dale County political figures are butting heads over how dollars are distributed.
Two powerful Dale County political figures are butting heads over how dollars are distributed.(Colin Baillie)
Updated: Jun. 17, 2022 at 7:00 AM CDT
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DALE COUNTY, Ala. (WTVY) - Two powerful Dale County political figures are butting heads over how dollars are distributed.

“It matters when you discriminate against the people of Dale County when it comes to emergency services,” Ozark Mayor Mark Blankenship told county commissioners this week.

He is frustrated those unincorporated areas are receiving the bulk of $1.6 million in American Rescue Act funds earmarked to EMS by the Dale County Commission.

Watch Mayor Blankenship discuss his opposition.

“Fifty-nine percent of that money was received based upon cities and towns population (and not rural areas),” Blankenship said of the federal stimulus dollars.

But municipalities are receiving less than $100,000.

County Chairman Steve McKinnon, though, defends the split as equitable.

Watch Chairman McKinnon defend the EMS funding plan.

“We are not gypping the (cities) because they have their own ARPA funds they could spend (on emergency services)”, he responds. “We are trying to support the rural areas outside of jurisdictions and improve and enhance healthcare for those people.”

The county bases its funding on square miles EMS providers serve outside police jurisdictions; the most by Echo, which covers 165 square miles.

In comparison, Ozark serves only five miles.

Blankenship, though, believes that funding formula is cattywampus because municipalities make 85 percent of emergency runs.

The mayor said soaring fuel prices and personnel costs have put governments in a financial pinch and every dollar is extremely valuable.

McKinnon understands those struggles but claims that Dale County Commissioners helped secure a $400,000 grant for EMS services and recently allocated another $125,000 not related to ARPA funds.

Two funding scenarios would satisfy Blankenship. One is to divide the money using the same formula as a license plate fee that benefits EMS, and he is also willing to accept a five-way split among all providers.

The first would net Ozark slightly more than $400,000, with the other $320,000 each for all EMS providers.

Neither side plans to back down and McKinnon admits the dispute is likely headed to court.

“I know I’ve done what’s right,” he told News 4 on Wednesday.

The county received over $9 million in ARPA stimulus dollars from Washington, some of which has not been earmarked.

McKinnon said Daleville declined its share of EMS funding because it serves only one small area outside of its jurisdiction.

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