Jefferson County commissioners approved the purchase of 100 Lucas CPR devices Thursday, bringing to 238 the county has or will buy with federal funds related to COVID-19.
The sheriff’s department initially sought 250 devices to go into patrol cars on remote beats. That number was eventually whittled to 138.
Commissioners debated the appropriate number of devices to buy, acknowledging that the purchase would have to meet the criteria brought forward by Witt O’Brien, the firm the county hired to vet its spending of federal COVID funds.
A pending price increase of 7% for each device made some anxious to act quickly. Commissioner Joe Knight offered that 100 be purchased as a compromise, adding that needed research should already have been done.
“Now you’ve got to prove that need to us as to where they’re best utilized, and where they should be,” Knight said. “Should they be in a deputy’s car? Or should they be in a rescue truck? In my opinion, they should be in every rescue truck first before we start loading them up in a deputy’s car, who may be off duty living in St. Clair County and that does nobody any good.
“But I did it as a compromise,” he said. “Let’s do 100. I don’t like it, but it was a compromise as opposed to doing 140 or 250.”
The matter passed 4-1 with Commissioner Steve Ammons casting the no vote. He strongly supports the Lucas devices, he said, citing the use of the device for 45 minutes to get someone to a hospital from a remote location.
“There’s tons of value but our decision is not based on, ‘Does it improve quality of life and quality of first response in those services?’” Ammons said. “Our job is to determine whether or not this federal money that we’ve been given and the guidelines that we’ve been given … meet all the criteria.
“I thought this was jumping the gun a little bit, and that’s approving this purely because there’s a price increase coming in.”
That increase is not insignificant, about $1,250 per device, Ammons said.
“But if it doesn’t meet the criteria, where does that money come from?” he asked. “It probably has to come from the general fund. There are too many questions and not enough answers.”
Commissioners approved 54 resolutions that were moved to the agenda at Tuesday’s commission committee meeting. Those resolutions included approving county funding to staff facilities when the USFL kicks off in the spring and approving a project agreement between Jefferson County and Harbison Walker Inc.