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Disagreement brewing between commissioners over city ambulance service

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A disagreement over whether the city’s contract with its ambulance service needs to be revised is brewing between some Augusta commissioners.

An argument is brewing about the city's contract with Gold Cross EMS.  SUMMER MOORE/STAFF
SUMMER MOORE/STAFF
An argument is brewing about the city's contract with Gold Cross EMS.

District 5 Commissioner Bill Lockett, the chairman of the administrative committee, sides with Augusta Fire Chief Chris James, who said he is unhappy with the city’s contract with Gold Cross EMS. Last month, James said he had a problem with the vagueness of the contract, including the absence of a requirement for the company to have a minimum number of ambulances in service in Augusta and their internal dispatch center .

Lockett said he is especially unhappy about the $1.3 million the city pays to Gold Cross.

“We most certainly need to look at (the contract),” he said. “It’s lopsided, especially when compared to Columbia County.”

Columbia County pays Gold Cross $500,000 a year. Lockett said he thinks what Augusta pays is “excessive”.

“I have looked at the contracts and we did not get the best deal,” he said.

Lockett also said the contract needs to be written in a way to allow for better oversight.

“If they are trying to hide something, we need to find out what,” he said.

District 6 Commissioner Joe Jackson, the chairman of the public safety committee, said he thinks the contract is fine. The public safety committee would oversee the contract should changes need to be made. It has been renewed automatically every two years since Dec. 31, 2005.

Jackson said it may be time to institute a 911 committee, “for oversight,” after learning the ambulance company’s records are produced by an internal system that is not monitored by any outside committee.

Jackson said he believes the contract issue has been brought up by firefighters “whining over spilled milk,” saying he thought James’ strategic plan, which he presented to the commission when he applied to be fire chief, called for the fire department to eventually take over Augusta’s ambulance service.

In the plan, James said he would increase the number of paramedics employed by the fire department so the department would be able to transport patients, as opposed to just treating them on scene as the EMT first responders can do. The fire department has one ambulance in service that can transport patients and another as backup in case it needs repairs. Other than the fire department’s ambulance, Rescue 1, Gold Cross ambulances are the only vehicles able to transport 911 patients in Augusta unless another company is specifically requested.

Jackson said that means James intends to take over Augusta’s 911 ambulance service. James disagrees.

James said he wanted to be able to transport patients so the fire department could keep its ambulance license. The Georgia Department of Public Heath requires at least one ambulance to be in service to keep the license. James put Rescue 1 into service full time in February.

By using a private provider such as Gold Cross for ambulance services, James said, the city is at risk if it does not hold a license due to not having enough paramedics on hand to run Rescue 1.

“What happens if Gold Cross suddenly closes, or goes out of business?” he said. “The contract has to go out for bid. If we don’t have a license, what do we do for ambulances in the meantime?”

James said his intention was not to take over the ambulance service unless it was deemed advantageous to the citizens.

“It doesn’t matter if (the contract) is held by a private company, as long as we have a contract which is transparent and easily policed,” he said.

The contract was automatically renewed in January for two more years. According to the contract, the commission must let Gold Cross know they are putting the contract out for bid by March of next year, giving them nine months notice. However, if both parties meet and agree on changes, the contract can be amended at any time, said General Counsel Andrew MacKenzie.

Gold Cross owner Bo Pounds said, while he thinks the current contract is working, if commissioners thought it needed to be looked at again, he would be open to having the conversation.

Pounds said it would be a good thing for him also if the contract included a set number of ambulances because he said he has to use some of his general transport (non-emergency) ambulances in Richmond County to cover all the calls. If there was a set number in the contract, he would only be responsible for that amount. Pounds said Gold Cross keeps 11 advanced life support ambulances in service in Richmond County at all times.

Lockett said the contract will go before the commission to be reviewed, but could not say when.

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soapy_725
43634
Points
soapy_725 08/19/12 - 07:38 am
0
0
problem with the vagueness of the contract
Unpublished

And who pray tell writes these contracts for ARC? Their accuracy rate is 0%. Fire the incompetent county employees, lawyers, etc. Oh no, they have a CONTRACT which states whatever. Never any idea of what an ARC contract includes? No much happening in River City. Same old, same old. ARC, the poster boy for Incompetent Government. At least in Chicago and Detroit we knew it was monetary corruption. In Augusta it is just Ignorance and Apathy on the part of government and citizens.

soapy_725
43634
Points
soapy_725 08/19/12 - 07:42 am
0
0
The same person writes the legal contracts
Unpublished

for ARC that pens the Mayor's Awards and Dedications.
Short an so sweet.

We, the City of ARC, agree to do business with Ajax, LLC. Signed Fred Russell.

shelby547
255
Points
shelby547 08/19/12 - 01:51 pm
1
1
here we go again

I feel like I'm watching the last few battles in the movie 8-mile. You are rehashing the same story over and over again. Can you write about anything besides the fire department. Here take this pencil and don't come back til something don't hit you. I think that is how it went. Get original.

Conservative Man
5353
Points
Conservative Man 08/19/12 - 04:19 pm
1
1
Scuttlebutt is....

....that this thing was independently researched and viewed to be an awful deal for the city weeks ago. An expose' was written, but the day before publication the AC pulled it.. This particular story is fluff compared to what I heard the "real" story was.....
Where there is smoke.........this one ain't over....
No offense shelby, but THIS story needs to be told.

shelby547
255
Points
shelby547 08/19/12 - 04:40 pm
2
0
conservative man

Like Folker just posted. It wasnt pulled. They put a little side note saying it was 911 fault not Gold Cross. James didnt apologize from anything I read for blaming the ambulance company when in fact it was not their fault.

corgimom
30094
Points
corgimom 08/19/12 - 04:58 pm
2
0
$1.3 million? Take a look at

$1.3 million? Take a look at the 23% poverty rate, take a look at the indigent care expenses that RC pays, and you will have all the answers you need.

And add to that the ridiculous people that call 911 and want an ambulance for every minor thing- remember a few years back, the woman that blogged about her kid got bit in the face by a dog, and the father called 911? For a DOG BITE that left a laceration that was about 1 1/2" long, and that didn't warrant priority emergency care, let alone an ambulance?

shelby547
255
Points
shelby547 08/19/12 - 04:59 pm
2
0
jackson

I also think Mr. Jackson has a good idea. Why not have a 911 commitee who oversees police, fire and EMS reporting. I think all three agencies should be doing reporting but not to each other.

rmwhitley
5538
Points
rmwhitley 08/19/12 - 06:12 pm
0
0
Let's take a look
Unpublished

at demographics: Richmond county over 60% black, Columbia county at least 75% white. I know whites are killing each other in alarming rates in Columbia county while Richmond county's black population only has a "kill rate" of 1 in 10,000,000. Wake up black people, you are calling for ambulances in Richmond county every time your alarm clock goes off. There's NO comparison between Columbia county and Richmond county. You use the race card every chance you get, don't you richmond county commissioners? Shame on you!

Sweet son
9972
Points
Sweet son 08/19/12 - 06:24 pm
0
2
Can't Even Say What this Reeks Of!

But the word poop is another choice!

communistwookie
69
Points
communistwookie 08/19/12 - 06:33 pm
2
1
Augusta fire

As a richmond county resident i would like to see Richmond county take over transport/emt . At minimum add some rescue units around town then use gold cross to suplement them.

Lori Davis
883
Points
Lori Davis 08/19/12 - 07:29 pm
0
1
Conservative Man is right and

Conservative Man is right and I have seen the contract.....Horrendous... Another brilliant contract put together by Fred Russell at the expense of the tax payers... When will all of this end??? Work being done on this by another media agency. Stay tuned for the truth.

shelby547
255
Points
shelby547 08/19/12 - 08:01 pm
0
1
lori

How is it a bad deal. We dont have to be taxed on millions of dollars in ambulances, supplies and salaries. I havent seen complaints about the service and watching recent news video it seems they have invested a lot in those cpr things at their own expense. They need to have oversight like Mr. Jackson stated but why James. Why should he oversee EMS....he needs to concentrate on Fire and stop forloughs... we need a commitee not a person to oversee ems as well as fire and police

gottcha
29
Points
gottcha 08/19/12 - 08:14 pm
1
1
Who is in Bed with Gold Cross?

Please ask a couple of questions!!!!! Somebody please!!! Did any commissioner(s) benefit from the contract? Has any commissioner(s) done work for Gold Cross and profited from there contract? If so how in the world could they oversee it? Would someone please ask these questions!! I know the answers because purchase orders don't lie.

jpbrig
170
Points
jpbrig 08/20/12 - 06:39 am
1
0
Millions to buy ambulances

Bill Lockett and Lori Davis would have taxpayers spend millions of dollars to buy ambulances and millions more to staff them, for no better service? Then there is the cost of keeping the fleet up to date. 911 calls is not where the money is made in the ambulance service. You are not likely to get paid on 911 calls.

balloon2008
88
Points
balloon2008 08/20/12 - 07:54 am
0
1
Ambulances

You think gold cross is a non profit? We respond to every ambulance call with our million dollar fire trucks and firemen and wait for their ambulances to get there to transport the patient. it costs the taxpayers a lot more than 1.3 million. Plus then the fire department could also bill the customers who can afford to pay like gold cross does. We might be able to staff ambulances at all fire depts and save the wear and tear on our million dollar fire trucks.

shelby547
255
Points
shelby547 08/20/12 - 08:13 am
0
0
seiously balloon

Every ambulance call? So they call you at 3am for a hurt toe or general pain for assistance. Not buying that one.

balloon2008
88
Points
balloon2008 08/20/12 - 08:25 am
0
1
Shelby

They don't call me but my elderly neighbor calls for a ambulance and a fire truck usually responds first. I have called for a ambulance to my business for a employee and the fire department (which I'm glad they did) responded first. So you decide? There is a cost when you crank up that million dollar plus fire machine and the men staff it

shelby547
255
Points
shelby547 08/20/12 - 08:51 am
0
0
wonder

Do you think that the ambulance closest to your neighbor may have gotten send on a call 1 minute prior. In a perfect world there would be a fire truck and ambulance on every street corner.

Sweet son
9972
Points
Sweet son 08/20/12 - 12:40 pm
1
0
Outsource!

Ambulance service has seemed to be an outsourced service that has worked!!! We do not need to create more government we need to continue to find ways to reduce it. Especially the payroll!!!!

Tla8750
11
Points
Tla8750 08/20/12 - 12:57 pm
1
1
If this is gonna be a debate,

If this is gonna be a debate, do it about what the article is about! It's not saying the FD is gonna "take over" EMS, it's saying there is a debate about the contract! For the sake of half of the critics, please atleast do some research on the contract the city has as well as the contracts that city's the same size have. And for your own entertainment research the contracts Mr. Pounds has with other city/counties! Come on people it's as easy as requesting the records or even easier if you use Google! Play armchair quarterback if ya want, if only you knew the truth!

Lori Davis
883
Points
Lori Davis 08/20/12 - 03:03 pm
0
1
First of all JP you don't

First of all JP you don't know what I am thinking or what I know. I have seen the contract and we can do better. I have also compared it to contracts in Columbia County and Jefferson County and there are things that need to be tied up rather than appearing open ended. Also, why does the City have to give Gold Cross 9 months advanced warning that they are going to re bid a contract? Who's idea was this? That is pure ridiculous. Personally I think that once looked into, we might find some who are really benefitting from all of this and some just might be elected. Just my opinion. Any layman could look at this contract and see that there is something terribly funny about it. Even me JP.

betcha2
42
Points
betcha2 08/20/12 - 04:09 pm
0
1
Gold Cross v. government (citizens)

The contract with Gold Cross should be evaluated as to its content, or lack thereof, along with the expense of dealing with Gold Cross. Re-negotiating the contract to provide for improved services and obligations from a company that receives a premium price from Richmond County, a price over and above other neigboring counties for the same service, is only prudent of tax payers money. Gold Cross should not object to re-negotiating a contract that seems questionable. The new contract should be explicit in details as to their obligations to the county for the premium that it receives. Explicit details allow all parties to know what is expected, remedies for failure to provide adequate service, and for payments for those services. If a commissioner respresents the county AND represents his private business who does work with a company that does business with the county, is asking for a cloud of deceit to loom over his head and any of his dealings likewise should be scruinitzed. Preception of improprieties are the result of wearing two hats.

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