City negotiating privately with ambulance service

BOB STEPHENS Updated: October 19, 2012 at 12:00 am • Published: October 19, 2012

Approval of a two-year renewal for ambulance service in El Paso County is being held up as Colorado Springs officials negotiate privately for their own deal with American Medical Response.

City Councilman Bernie Herpin told the Emergency Services Agency board Thursday that “an outside agreement is what the city is looking for, outside of the contract renewal.”

That didn’t please ESA board members, who vented frustration at the secret negotiations between AMR and the Colorado Springs Fire Department. They also expressed fear that if the city strikes its own deal with AMR, that will lead to higher costs for county residents outside of Colorado Springs and perhaps inferior ambulance service.

“We need to bring this discussion to the light of day,” said board member Sallie Clark, an El Paso County commissioner. “If the city doesn’t get what they want from AMR, they’re going to pull out of the contract, is what I hear. If the city’s not going to play, we need to know.”

The city may want to start its own ambulance service, Clark said.

Board members were upset that Tommy Smith, CSFD Deputy Chief and an ESA board member, wasn’t there to answer questions or provide an update.

“Most entities don’t want to negotiate in public,” Herpin said. “The Mayor (Steve Bach) is looking for ways to provide services and still recover some of our costs. We’re not trying to be the gorilla in the room, I don’t think.”

Herpin said part of the city’s plan is to provide neighborhood clinics in fire departments “where people can come in to check their blood pressure, blood sugar. We’re looking for ways to pay for that.”

Clark said she’s also heard the city may want more money from AMR to staff two new fire stations.

Herpin, alternate to the board and sitting in place of absent City Council member Merv Bennett, read an e-mail from Smith that said in part, “... we are having discussions with AMR about how to innovatively collaborate to reduce costs. This savings would then be passed on to the Colorado Springs Fire Department. The efficiencies gained will not impact ambulance coverage in the county nor will it change the cost of ambulance transport.”

The five-year contract the ESA board has with the ambulance firm ends Dec. 31, 2013. The two-year renewal was approved by ESA’s board and county commissioners in June. City Council, the final group that must approve, had renewal on its agenda in June but canceled a meeting due to the Waldo Canyon fire and still has not acted.

Herpin assured the board that city council will pass the renewal contract and present news of any other negotiations at ESA’s board meeting Dec. 5.

That wasn’t good enough for some.

“It’s inappropriate for the entire county to be held captive by one entity,” said board vice-chair Carl Tatum, the Hanover Fire Chief. “Politics behind the scenes is holding up this process and it’s not serving the community very well.”

Contact Bob Stephens: 636-0276 Twitter @bobgstephens

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