Augusta Commission votes to renegotiate ambulance contract with Gold Cross

The Augusta Commission on Tuesday reversed course on emergency medical service in the city, voting 6-4 to suspend a request for proposals from ambulance firms and instead having the city administrator try to renegotiate a deal with current provider Gold Cross.

Commissioner Bill Lock­ett opposed the measure and said the body previously had voted unanimously to re-examine all city contracts worth more than $1 million.

“What we’re trying to do is look at what’s in the best interest of the community,” he said.

Mayor Pro Tem Corey Johnson and Commissioners Bill Fennoy and Alvin Mason also opposed the move, which Commissioner Marion Williams has been pushing for weeks.

The decision to seek ambulance proposals from other providers came at the urging of Fire Chief Chris James, who argued that the existing, self-renewing contract with Gold Cross was too vague and gave the city no way to verify service levels.

Commissioners who have favored suspending the “request for proposals” have said they weren’t aware of any complaints about Gold Cross’ service in Augusta.

The Martinez-based firm serves both Richmond and Columbia counties, and was granted a problematic “co-zone” designation, along with Augusta, by the area EMS council a few years ago.

Gold Cross CEO Vince Brogdon said he expected to reach an agreement with City Administrator Fred Russell on a contract he hoped would provide for a new EMS board to oversee operations.

“Ultimately, what we want to do is get an EMS board where we’re not reporting to one person; we’re reporting to a group of people,” Brogdon said.

In other action Tuesday, the Augusta Commission:

• Suspended for 90 days the license of Skittlez, a Gordon Highway nightclub caught holding an illegal adult show with a minor present. The suspension, which a committee recommended be only 30 days, passed 6-4, with Fennoy, Johnson, Lockett and Williams opposed. Commissioner Donnie Smith, who supported the 90-day suspension, said the gay club had violated “rules of decency in this society” for “an extended period of time.”

• Approved $300,000 to advance preparation of a proposal to
convert two old textile mills and other existing city structures into a “mills campus” and “cultural campus” for expanding Georgia Regents University. The funding
will not come from city taxes but
instead from a new solar power facility in the works by the mills, according to Augusta Regional Collaboration Project Director Matt Kwatinetz.

• Voted 6-4 to lease a riverfront tract to Savannah Riverkeeper for 100 years on a motion from Commissioner Joe Jackson. Initially opposed to a 50-year lease, Jackson said, “If it’s that sweet a deal” he’d recommend 100 years, and his motion passed.

• Approved a handful of adjustments to the city’s new solid-waste contract requested by Commissioner Wayne Guilfoyle to address the needs of rural areas.

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