Lawsuit expected in Dale County EMS feud

Municipalities are irate they were snubbed when the county divvied $1.6 million in American Rescue Plan Act money.
Published: Jun. 28, 2022 at 10:57 PM CDT
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OZARK, Ala. (WTVY) -An anticipated lawsuit would seek to stop Dale County Commissioners from awarding the bulk of Emergency Medical Services funding to rural providers.

Municipalities, including Ozark, are irate they were snubbed by the county that divvied up $1.6 million in American Rescue Plan Act money it earmarked for EMS.

“This makes the number of people not being served (with the funding) over 30,000,” Pinckard Mayor Bobby Borland told county commissioners on Tuesday, when they gave final approval to the plan.

Dale County’s overall population is 49,200.

The mostly rural funding comes despite EMS services in cities making the bulk of runs in the county—over 80 percent-- but will receive only minimal funding for small areas they serve outside their city limits.

Mayor Borland believes there is a better way.

“We are asking you to use the same formula you used when distributing the five-dollar tag tax,” he said, referring to a recently implemented license plate fee that benefits all EMS providers in the county.

Using that formula, Ozark would receive over $400,000, more than four times what it will get under the county’s ARPA plan, while other municipalities would also receive substantially more funding.

But Dale County Chairman Steve McKinnon believes the commission’s obligation is to rural EMS because cities have their own ARPA funds from Washington that could bolster their emergency services.

“Ozark has got over $3 million, pushing $4 (million in relief funds),” McKinnon told News 4.

He believes the county is on sound legal footing with its funding plan and predicts it will prevail during the anticipated courtroom showdown.

“It’s all about the dollar. It’s like putting a sign in front of (county) commission offices that says they’ve got free money,” McKinnon said.

The funding is to become effective Friday, though it is not clear if the anticipated lawsuit would seek a restraining order to temporarily halt allocation of EMS funds.

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