AIKEN, SC - Aiken County Emergency Services will add three ambulances to its fleet in the coming weeks, according to the Aiken Standard.

Two will replace aging ambulances, while the third will bring the fleet number up to 14 emergency response vehicles.

The new ambulances, purchased with roughly $350,000 in one-cent sales tax funds, were parked at County Council chambers Oct. 20 for Council members to inspect.

Emergency Medical Services staff climbed into the back of the ambulances ("boxes") and pointed out many modern features that some of the older vehicles in the County's fleet do not have.

"The boxes are bigger. They have LED lights, which are easier to see, and dry erase boards on the walls so the emergency medical technicians aren't searching for something to write on," said Assistant County Administrator Todd Glover. "This is a real step up for our fleet. It's a big upgrade for us."

Councilwoman LaWana McKenzie called the ambulances an "early Christmas present."

EMS Coordinator Harvey Jay said the ambulances aren't street ready yet because certain equipment such as dispatch radios still need to be installed.

EMS Director Dominick Bianco said that in just two years, the system has grown more consistent and oftentimes has eight or more ambulances on the road on any given day. But, as the County has grown, so has the need for more ambulances.

Council approved several franchise agreements Tuesday allowing private ambulance services to operate in the County.

Jay said private ambulance services such as Regional Ambulance Service and SouthStar Ambulance work well with the County.

"Together, we make sure all areas have an ambulance in service," he said. "We check them off in meeting requirements like vehicle inspections, proof of insurance, and employee certification. The biggest thing is it has helped us cut back on response time."