Your tax dollars at work: New ambulance getting ready to roll


The next set of emergency lights and sirens you encounter in Emanuel County will be brighter and louder than the last. A brand-new ambulance has been added to our EMS fleet, and it’s largely thanks to your tax dollars.

The process has been a long one with several moving parts. Voters got it started in 2017 when they passed yet another SPLOST.

Kerry Curry is the county’s elections director. She says area voters have historically always supported the fund since it began here in the early 90s.

“A SPLOST has never failed in Emanuel County,” she said. “Not every county passes their SPLOST referendums strongly and consistently, but we do.”

Voters kept up the trend with SPLOST 6, giving it the go-ahead by 81 percent. It went into effect in 2018, bringing with it a spending power of 6 years.

“SPLOST 6 has done a lot for us in that amount of time,” County Administrator Guy Singletary said. “It has bought new breathing apparatuses for our firefighters, paid for major renovations at the animal shelter, made way for new public works and solid waste equipment, and a whole lot more.”

It also purchased the 2024 Ford E-450 that was brought home last week.

Nicky Drake started searching for it shortly after he took over as EMS director in 2022.

“We put about 60,000 miles a year on every one of our ambulances. Our county shop does a great job at keeping up the maintenance of them, but when you think about us repeatedly climbing in and out, loading and unloading patients, the vibrations from being on the road so much… That’s still a good bit of wear and tear,” he said. “In the past, we’ve bought chassis for them and put our old boxes on top, or essentially remounted them, but you can only do that one time. Once we did that to our last one, we had to go a different direction.”

And so began the hunt for a new ambulance. Unfortunately, COVID had slowed production across the entire vehicle manufacturing sector and put chassis in short supply. Ford, Dodge, Chevy—no matter the make, none of them were expected to be unavailable before sometime in 2025.

Until a company in Woodbury, Georgia projected a delivery date of March 2024.

That information made its way up the chain of command and was presented to the commission during their September 2022 meeting.

At the time, Jim Sherrod was chairman of the board. Today’s chairman, Hugh Foskey, James Canady, the late Keith Thompson, and the late Desse Davis served alongside him.

Looking back, Jim and Hugh call it a solid investment.

“We understood the others in our fleet were getting dated, and you can’t put a price on public safety,” Jim recalled. “If you need an ambulance, you want to be able to count on it, so when this company offered us a competitive cost and delivery date, it was a no-brainer.”

“It’s never a bad idea to stay on top of emergency services,” Hugh added. “This came up a few years ago, and it made sense to move forward with this truck, especially since we had a good price.”

Sure enough, every commissioner voted in favor of the purchase, planning to buy the almost $189,000 truck with SPLOST 6.

Timmy Oliver took office in January 2023, and Ricky Thompson joined three months later. Although they weren’t members of the board back then to cast votes, both say it’s a decision they support.

“I attended a lot of the meetings before I became a commissioner officially, and I remember them voting on this,” Timmy said. “I was happy to see some of our SPLOST money go toward this. I would’ve voted ‘yes’ with them. I’m also a volunteer firefighter with Twin City, so I’ve seen our EMS folks at work. They’re top-notch, and they deserve it.”

“All of our departments work really hard. I know since I joined the board, we try to take care of them the best we can,” Ricky said. “This was the previous commission’s way of doing that for EMS. They’re one of the most vital services we provide for the entire community, so in my opinion, it was money well-spent.”

Fast-forward about 18 months from the vote and the company delivered on their promise. Nicky went up to inspect it Wednesday and found everything in working order as expected, so he parked it at its new home on Kite Road on Thursday. By the end of the day, the EMS team had fully stocked the cabinets with all the supplies they need to save lives.

The county shop spent Friday and Monday installing equipment mounts and communication systems, and the state EMS office signed off on its inspection yesterday. Then, just a few hours later, the vehicle finally went into service.

“Any time you get something new, it’s exciting, especially after you’ve waited for so long. The first day we had it in town, some of our folks dropped by to check it out,” Nicky said.

Katie Denison has worked for Emanuel County EMS for the last 11 years. She was one of the first in line to see her new workspace.

“When I heard it was finally in, I had to come see it myself. It’s nice, and we appreciate it for sure,” she said. “The newest ones we had, excluding this one of course, already had 200,000 miles on them. Now we can be more reliable.”

Nicky agrees with her.

“We have a big county to cover, and we do a lot of transports. We run two 24-hour crews, plus one day truck from 8 in the morning to 8 at night, seven days a week. If something happens and one of our trucks goes down, that’s a big hit to our operation. This new ambulance brings our fleet to 5 road-ready rigs, not including our spare. That’s huge because it means we can increase our dependability, and that’s what we’re most excited about,” Nicky said.

That’s why commissioners want to see continued support for SPLOST.

“This new ambulance is something that can help everybody in our community and even people who are passing through,” Jim said, “and we were able to buy it without burdening property owners. The money we get from the 1-cent tax goes a long way. As long as the voters keep giving it to us, we’ll keep putting it to good use.”