Columbia County might soon have a new ambulance service on its horizon.
That is if county commissioners approve a recent recommendation by the county's Community and Emergency Services Committee to replace the county's current provider - Horizon EMS - with Augusta-based Gold Cross EMS.
"For six months, we've been looking at this," said Pam Tucker, a member of the CES committee and director of the county's Emergency Management Agency. "And they did send out requests for proposals because it was a ($500,000) contract. That's a lot of money, and you want to have an opportunity to look at what else is out there."
The final vote will be taken at a 6:30 p.m Tuesday Board of Commissioners meeting at the courthouse in Appling. The four-year contract between Horizon and Columbia County is set to expire next month. A new two-year contract is on the table, and all eyes are set on finding the most adequate service at the best price.
Using a rating system that examined staffing, training and education requirements; response time standards; quality and quantity of equipment; and bidding prices, Mrs. Tucker said Gold Cross rated highest above Horizon and Rural Metro EMS - the third company in the running.
Mrs. Tucker said when it came to bids, the field was narrowed to Gold Cross and Horizon because of a high figure offered by Rural Metro. Gold Cross came in the lowest, requesting $400,000, while Horizon offered its services at $565,000 - $65,000 more than the previous contract.
Even though Mrs. Tucker said the bid amounts were not known until after her committee had given points for service, she said Gold Cross' bid helped tip the scale. Still, Mrs. Tucker's committee was "completely happy with Horizon EMS. They've done a good job and worked very well with us," she said.
Dradine Lee, a representative for Horizon, said she feels the recommendation process was fair, but when it came to service ratings, her company ranked highest.
Tom Schneider, CEO of Gold Cross, said Columbia County residents should feel at ease with the possible change.
"I've lived in Columbia County for 20 years... So my family is in the community, and we're going to provide the best ambulance service to the citizens of Columbia County that they can get."
As part of the new contract, Gold Cross would take over the current buildings where Horizon is stationed in Columbia County, offering the same number of ambulances - five. Also, their offer adds an ambulance to Leah Volunteer Fire Department for firefighters to use in first responder cases to accident scenes.
Mrs. Lee said she is prepared to take what her company has to offer to commissioners at the Tuesday meeting.
"We're not going to walk away from Columbia County just because," she said. "We're here to provide a service. And if this county wants us, we're here for them."
Reach Preston Sparks at (706) 868-1222, Ext. 110.
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