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.
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.