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Gold Cross ambulance contract will go to full commission

Monday, Jan. 28, 2013 5:52 PM
Last updated Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2013 12:57 AM
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A push to put Augusta’s ambulance service out for bids will go before the Augusta Commission after the matter received too few votes to pass in a committee meeting Monday.

Augusta Commissioner Alvin Mason listens as Fire Chief Chris James talks about the city's ambulance service.  MICHAEL HOLAHAN/STAFF
MICHAEL HOLAHAN/STAFF
Augusta Commissioner Alvin Mason listens as Fire Chief Chris James talks about the city's ambulance service.

Fire Chief Chris James detailed the issues he has with the city’s contract with Gold Cross EMS, an agreement put in place in 2005 and revised in 2007. The documents require Augusta to give Gold Cross notice of its intent to seek competitive bids by the end of March or the contract self-renews.

“I do not think this contract is adequate for us to have oversight,” said James, who inherited the agreement from former Chief Harold Wil­lis.

James said the contract doesn’t specify how many ambulances Gold Cross must keep within city limits, define call priorities or assure a responding ambulance is equipped with Advanced Life Support technology.

Commissioner Alvin Mason, who placed the item on Monday’s public safety committee agenda, said he had learned about the issue from a citizens group.

“This is a referendum on the contract language that we put in place,” Mason said.

Representing the Ric­h­mond County Neighborhood Al­liance, former commission candidate Sammie Sias said he soon will present a petition with thousands of signatures urging the commission to re-examine its ambulance provider.

Commissioner Marion Wil­liams pressed for details about why the alliance was concerned.

“Somebody ought to be showing me where we got to this point,” he said.

Gold Cross Chief Finan­cial Officer Frank Lindley said the firm might soon be sold by owner Bo Pounds. Lind­ley defended the agreement’s lack of specificity as adequate at the time it was written.

“Back then, you had an indefinite number (of ambulances),” he said. “That’s why you don’t have a specific number.”

The sole “no” vote against Com­mis­sioner Bill Lockett’s motion to have a subcommittee examine the issue before the deadline was Donnie Smith. Com­mittee member Grady Smith was absent.

Smith said he voted “no” because he was unsure who would serve on the subcommittee and wanted the full commission to make the decision when it returns to the issue at its next meeting.

“My concern was that we were voting to set up a committee that was going to have impact on the future contract, and I didn’t think that was fair,” Smith said.

In other business, the finance committee took no action on the annual plan for the Augusta Convention Cen­ter, which has its first convention scheduled late next month, and deferred action on the plan until a Feb. 11 committee meeting.

Commissioner Wayne Guil­foyle, who heads the committee, said it needed more time to look at the 39-page plan, which it saw for the first time late last week.

Augusta Riverfront LLC Pres­i­dent Paul Simon, who provided the plan to City Adminis­tra­tor Fred Russell on Jan. 9, said he hoped approval would come sooner.

“I think they need to go ahead and approve it, or give us some indications,” Simon said.

The public services committee failed to approve a lease agreement with Virginia Beach Golf Manage­ment for Augusta Municipal Golf Course – The Patch – leaving the matter to the full commission.

The engineering services committee took no action toward modifying an application pending with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to dredge a portion of Lake Olm­stead, despite the Lake­mont Neigh­borhood Asso­ciation’s pleas to dredge the entire lake to restore recreational opportunities and a letter of support from Augusta Canal Authority.

Engineering Director Abie Ladson said the price to dredge the lake to a depth of three feet would be $20 million, largely because of the cost to dispose of the removed material.

The administrative ser­vices committee referred a system of naming buildings and facilities back to the law department and set a work session for other items.

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SemperParatus
3225
Points
SemperParatus 01/28/13 - 07:20 pm
2
0
No votes? Why?

If committees vote, why aren't these members voting? There has to be an underlying reason.

TCB22
609
Points
TCB22 01/28/13 - 10:32 pm
3
0
Praying

Praying that I never need an ambulance while in Richmond County if the fire department takes over running calls.

OpenCurtain
10049
Points
OpenCurtain 01/29/13 - 08:43 am
1
2
Commissioners: Please

Commissioners:
Please remember a few things for the other 3/4's of the voters aka The Outsiders.

WE MUST HAVE:
Timely, Realistically Priced, Equal Countywide Coverage.

Bid it out to 2 or 3 service providers.

Let them run calls based on who is available and closest.

Judge each Service provider on realistic response times and delivery to the hospital. If they drop below 90% of expectations, have a contract clause that allows for remedial actions (probation for 90 days) and easy termination of the service provider if they fail to meet realistic expectations.

Position them in known high demand central locations, not just fire stations.

PLUS,
make the awarded Service provider(s) cover their own operational costs or even pay ARC for a operational territory franchise.

They are a business they should be allowed to turn a reasonable profit 15%><20% over gross operational costs. About 10% net.

They must "publicly open" their books (PDF on a Website) for review if the Taxpayers are footing the bill in any way.

If the taxpayers are going to pay for their operations?
Then WHY NOT ALSO consider starting up a A-RC EMS Group?
Like a majority of the top 200 cities nationwide have already done.

See the national FD/EMS stats, they show better service, better staff, better response times.

POLITICAL AVOIDANCE
other than contract adherence all politics must be removed from the process.

Remember:
When it comes down to a matter of seconds to save a life, it shouldn't matter who comes to the rescue, just that the people, the vehicle and skills are there to save it in a timely manner.

Little Lamb
44892
Points
Little Lamb 01/29/13 - 09:11 am
2
1
Deliberation

Commissioner Wayne Guilfoyle is wise to insist on careful study and deliberation on the TEE Center annual operating plan. But look at the sour grapes statement from Mr. Moneybags:

“I think they need to go ahead and approve it, or give us some indications,” Augusta Riverfront LLC President Paul Simon said.

Yeah, just go ahead and rubber stamp whatever Paul Simon wants. Don't even bother reading the plan. If Simon says it's good for Augusta, you can take it to the bank.

Little Lamb
44892
Points
Little Lamb 01/29/13 - 09:19 am
3
1
Hold On

From the story:

Fire Chief Chris James said the contract doesn’t specify how many ambulances Gold Cross must keep within city limits, define call priorities or assure a responding ambulance is equipped with Advanced Life Support technology.

Let's think about this for a moment.

First, you don't need the commission or the fire chief to micromanage every single aspect of the contract. There is no compelling reason to spell out in the contract the precise number of ambulances Gold Cross must keep. Just keep track of response times and investigate citizen complaints. And just what does Chief James mean by "within city limits"? Is he talking about the urban tax district, which Commissioner Wayne Guilfoyle and his ad hoc committee are studying ways to abolish?

Second, there is no reason why every single ambulance must be equipped with Advanced Life Support technology. Some calls for ambulance service are not life and death, even though they are important. The ambulance dispatchers can make that judgement call better than Chief James can.

Chief James is acting like he wants to expand his power, authority, and his salary. He might get more authority, but he will not be automatically granted more competence. He will likely get in over his head if he gets total control of the ambulance operations.

Little Lamb
44892
Points
Little Lamb 01/29/13 - 09:24 am
2
0
Dredge

From the story:

Engineering Director Abie Ladson said the price to dredge the lake to a depth of three feet would be $20 million, largely because of the cost to dispose of the removed material.

Well, the sneaky thing to do would be to secretly dump the material into the Savannah River under cover of darkness (preferably below the Lock & Dam). That way, the silt would wash on down the Savannah where it would deposit in the area the Corps of Engineers is going to dredge anyway to deepen Savannah Harbor. That would be a win-win!

OpenCurtain
10049
Points
OpenCurtain 01/29/13 - 10:12 am
1
1
Sell the Dredge

The rotten, chemical runoff rich lake bottom soil would make great a
Haz Mat Veggie Garden.

OpenCurtain
10049
Points
OpenCurtain 01/29/13 - 10:28 am
1
0
Glad to see The Comish is

Glad to see The Comish is putting on the brakes of the years of:
"Here is the report, trust us, approve it before you fully read and understand it "

Commissioner Wayne Guil­foyle, who heads the committee, said it needed more time to look at the 39-page plan, which it saw for the first time late last week.

It would do everyone well to remember ARC Commissioners are only part-time positions.

TakeAHike
186
Points
TakeAHike 01/29/13 - 12:39 pm
1
0
Get rid of Gold Cross

With questions about quality and requisite equipment why are they even considering keeping Gold Cross? Furthermore, the city subsidizes them to the tune of millions yet they rip off their customers. They are out of network with ALL insurance companies so they can spike their rates. They're more expensive than ambulance providers in many other areas and the city is being complicit.

Sweet son
9959
Points
Sweet son 01/29/13 - 01:21 pm
3
1
Our Incredible Do Nothing Commission!!

Did anyone else get the idea that the Commission meeting was a bust with NOTHING being done. Read these excerpts!

the matter received too few votes to pass

In other business, the finance committee took no action

The public services committee failed

The engineering services committee took no action

The administrative ser­vices committee referred

What a joke!! And Preacher Williams said, “Somebody ought to be showing me where we got to this point." If things are so bad he shouldn't be asking how we got to this point. He should be asking how we fix it if there actually is a problem.

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