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City may re-bid ambulance service

Commissioner calls for city to review use of Gold Cross

Sunday, Jan. 27, 2013 7:04 PM
Last updated Monday, Jan. 28, 2013 1:05 AM
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A self-renewing ambulance service contract that Augusta Fire Chief Chris James characterized as “vague” and difficult to enforce could be replaced.

Augusta Commission member Alvin Mason said he requested the city give Gold Cross EMS the nine months’ notice required under its amended contract as a matter of course as city leaders review all contracts up for renewal.

“I don’t want to be waiting until the last minute,” Mason said. “It doesn’t mean they won’t get it.”

Gold Cross, the ambulance provider since 2005, operates under a $1.3 million annual contract that self-renews if the commission doesn’t give the Martinez corporation nine months’ notice.

James, who replaced Howard Willis as fire chief and EMS contract administrator last year, was critical of the arrangement, saying it lacked key definitions such as the number of ambulances the firm must maintain in Augusta and the priority of calls, making it difficult to measure whether Gold Cross was meeting its life-saving obligations.

Commissioner Wayne Guil­foyle said he supported the reviews.

“It’s the only way we can find out if we’re getting the best deal,” he said. “It’s common sense.”

The item is the first on a lengthy agenda for commission committee discussion Monday.

Also up for review is an operations plan at the Augusta Convention Center from operator Augusta River­front LLC, a 38-page document required under the firm’s management agreement with the city.

The firm shares management with Morris Communi­cations Co., owner of The Augusta Chronicle.

The plan specifies fixed personnel, including an events director who will earn $85,000 annually, with potential for a 30 percent bonus, along with six other lesser-paid staffers. It also specifies rental rates of $4,000 a day in the peak season, with the ESi half-Ironman triathlon afforded no rental fee because of its economic impact. The center will require the marketing services of the Augusta Convention and Visitors Bureau, the plan states.

Most committee agenda items require approval by the full commission. Other items on committee agendas include:

• A lease of Augusta Mu­nic­ipal Golf Course to Vir­ginia Beach Golf Manage­ment, with lease payments to the city totaling $101,696 over five years, with the city responsible for capital improvements of more than $5,000

• A bid award to Turner Con­struction Co. for $2,302,011 for the start of renovations at the Municipal Building

• Amending the 2013 budget to add several positions requested last year by City Ad­min­is­trator Fred Russell, including a retail development specialist and contract compliance and a $750 cost-of-living adjustment for employees

• A presentation by Gene­ral Counsel Andrew Mac­Kenzie on the law office’s expenses, including its spending for outside counsel

Comments (6) Add comment
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curly123053 01/27/13 - 11:44 pm
Richmond County Needs To Run Own EMS

The best deal for Richmond County is to have a county runned 911 EMS service. The citizens will benefit in the long run by having a service with the county as the top priority. It's time for the Augusta-Richmond Fire Dept to take over EMS operations for it's citizens.
A private for profit ambulance service is only going to do what it can to make the company profitable, regardless whar they say.

texsmoke 01/28/13 - 11:07 am
no clue

Spoken like someone with no public safety background. The fire Chief is speaking for himself not the firefighters. The man who has never even commanded on scene at a fire but is fire chief is back after the ambulance service because of his failed attempt to takeover the fire department at Augusta Regional. Contracts can always be discussed, but to say private for profit are the only doing it for the money is ridiculous.

I've lived in places where the county runs it and our service here is 10 times better. They always keep the newest trucks and if you ever watch the news you would see they have invested a ton of money on equipment to aid the citizens.

traumaqueen 01/28/13 - 11:56 am
Personally I don't think

Personally I don't think there is anything wrong with GC's performance. I do think that communication & a better relationship between admin on both sides would be extremely beneficial. Its turned into a "peeing" match that isn't benefiting anyone. As far as patient care goes the citizens of RC can rest assured that those of us in the field (EMT's & Fire Fighters) are amazing at what we do & WE consider ourselves family. We are always there for each other & those in need. Of course even family sometimes argue & don't see eye to eye at all times. We are good but not perfect:)

Sweet son
Sweet son 01/28/13 - 02:16 pm
Gold Cross is a well run business!

Given the county's reputation of incompetence in running anything letting the chief and commission run the ambulance service would be just plain stupid!! If government were run like a business then they might not always have their hands out for more funding.

texsmoke 01/28/13 - 02:52 pm
Sweet on sweet son

Couldn't have said it better. People are not looking at the whole picture. Do people realize how much money it would cost the citizens. It would probably take 25 million easy to get it started if Fire took over. Hiring staff, ambulances, equipment, drugs, training, Malpractice insurance, gas, vehicle insurance, attorney fees for lawsuits, paying for said lawsuits, heart monitors, stretchers, more mechanics more admin staff. Seriously look at the whole picture.

SemperParatus 01/28/13 - 07:35 pm
Speaking of vague...

...check out Augusta's fire chief's work experience! Chris James NEVER served as an officer in charge of a fire truck. Not as a lieutenant or a captain. Yet Richmond County commissioners saw fit to promote him to the top job? I remember asking a commissioner why this was allowed to happen and his reply was, "He was the head of the training department." Go figure. The man "trained" others on procedures and techniques he had never himself performed. As for the argument for and against private EMS service, the commenter above is right. Both county and Gold Cross management must improve communications. For those not from Augusta, University Hospital ran the ambulance service for years. The paramedics and EMTs were hospital employees which was a nice perk.

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