Originally created 07/09/02

Bids in for EMS service



Two bids for citywide ambulance service came in more than $400,000 apart, with Augusta's current provider - Rural/Metro Ambulance - listing the lowest bid, an Augusta Commission committee learned Monday.

Rural/Metro submitted an annual cost projection of $760,000 to provide eight ambulances.

The bid was more than $434,996 less than Gold Cross EMS, which said it would cost them nearly $1.2 million per year to provide emergency medical service with six ambulances.

The contract would be for three years, with two one-year extensions.

Despite the cost and service differences, the commission's public safety committee declined to make recommendations on a contract award, opting instead to defer a decision until a full commission meeting next week.

"I'm going to read the documents and make a decision," said Commissioner Andy Cheek, who said earlier he supports hiring Gold Cross because it owns two medical helicopters.

"I'm concerned about getting the best service for Augusta," he said.

After reviewing the bid proposals, some commissioners said scoring - or the rating system for service - seemed unfair. For example, Gold Cross owns its own medical helicopters and Rural/Metro doesn't, but the difference in scores for air service was less than a point.

Any police officer, fire official or EMS provider can call one of Gold Cross's helicopters at any time, which is why the scoring difference wasn't very dramatic, City Administrator George Kolb told commissioners.

Others questioned the clarity of the city's purchasing proposals because Gold Cross included dispatching costs in its bid, even though it was not made part of the city's requested services.

"If I was bidding on something, I would think I was bidding on top service," Commis-sioner Marion Williams said.

The city switched to an in-house dispatching system in March.

Tom Snyder, the chief exe-cutive Officer of Gold Cross, said his bid would be about $450,000 less without dispatching services.

In December, when commissioners voted to renew Rural/Metro's contract, they also decided to bid out ambulance service for future years, saying they wanted to inject competition into the local market. When bids came back, however, the only two bidders were Rural/Metro and Gold Cross - Columbia County's provider since last year.

Monday's move follows months of commission discussion about Rural/Metro's response times and cost subsidies. Rural/Metro officials have steadfastly denied accusations from some commissioners that their service is subpar to what Gold Cross could offer.

"We have a lot more experience than they do," said Doug Hooten, the division general manager for Rural/Metro. "We know more about this market. It's just a capability thing."

The company has been receiving $50,000 a month this year to provide city ambulance service. The contract expires at the end of the year.

Reach Heidi Coryell Williams at (706) 823-3215 or heidi.williams@augustachronicle.com.

The full commission will vote next week on which company to award a three-year ambulance service contract with the city.