Tensions rise with Augusta leaders over new emergency services

“It was a long day today,” said Mayor Garnett Johnson.
Published: Mar. 29, 2023 at 10:00 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - A heated discussion with Augusta city leaders centered around Richmond County’s new EMS provider, Central EMS.

Commissioners are concerned over the administrator authorizing an emergency purchase for 911 software.

“It was a long day today,” said Mayor Garnett Johnson.

Wednesday’s back and forth with city leaders centered around a nearly $130,000 emergency purchase of dispatch software. It’s an electronic system for dispatchers to provide step-by-step help for people on the other end of a 911 call that also helps ambulances get dispatched faster.

A system Gold Cross used to manage but is now on the shoulders of the city with Central EMS stepping in. The backup to this program is a flipbook.

Johnson said: “The only thing that concerned some of the commissioners was the process outside of it not being run through the commission, through our body.”

Interim City Administrator Takiyah Douse said: “This is a definitely threat to public health, and the lives of our citizens and visitors of Richmond County is extremely important, not only to me but also to this body. Which is the reason why I authorized the procurement of that software.”


Central EMS President Gary Coker said: “It’s like going to your notes in your notebook now vs. going to your computer. That will save 60-90 seconds per call, and that’s time I think sometimes makes the difference in an emergency.”

While commissioners say this will help lower the contract subsidy price, Central made it clear the company will need something.

“We will have ambulances at zero subsidy. We’re not going to leave you without, however, we need a subsidy so that we can make the number of ambulances so that the response times are adequate,” said Coker.

Deal or no deal hammered out, Central says they’ll still be ready for April 22.

Douse says she’ll be working through Masters with Central EMS to get a contract ready for commissioners when they’re back in session. The electronic system could take up to three months to get installed.