In Special Friday Night Meeting, Bromley Makes Ambulance Pick
Mon, 11/21/2016 - 09:37 RCN Newsdesk
It is unusual for government meetings to be called on a Friday evening, but the Bromley City Council convened on Friday night to accept a contract for advanced life support (ALS) ambulance services.
Council voted 3 to 2 to accept the contract put forth by the Crescent Springs-Villa Hills (CS-VH) Fire Department, ahead of that fire department's board meeting on Monday.
There was much discussion before the vote, a topic of discussion earlier in the week and earlier in the year, as some have questioned whether the Ludlow Fire Department was purposefully eliminated from consideration.
Councilwoman Nancy Kienker stated that she did not have an issue with CS-VH, but she did have an issue with the way the ad was placed, and challenged Mayor Donnie Jobe about it, saying that he told her he would re-run the ad seeking bids in the newspaper. The original ad's call for departments with two ambulances would eliminate Ludlow, which has just one. Jobe said that he did tell Kienker that he would re-run the ad, but if that was what the entire council wanted to do, he would run the ad again.
Kienker also said that she contacted Kenton County Dispatch to ask about CS-VH and how many runs they typically have and was told that CS-VH had "a ton" more calls than Ludlow. She felt the information forced a question of response time, since Ludlow's department is physically closer.
Mayor Jobe said that the city put out the bid to everyone, and asked Kienker what she would rather have if she needed help: a department with one ambulance or two?
"I want the one that is the fastest!," she answered.
Jobe said the times show that CS-VH responded within 4 to 6 minutes to Bromley, and that was "great time." He said most people want the coverage that was the best scenario for the city, and if it was the same price as Ludlow, two ambulances would be better than one.
CS-VH fire chief Jeff Wendt and fire authority board president Scott Ringo were present and agreed that the response times were excellent. They explained that they operated with a tiered staff and from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. the department is staffed and ready to respond 100 percent of the time. The pair told Bromley's council that they haven't missed a call to Bromley in the last three years, and the cost they were asking in the contract was the same that the residents of Crescent Springs and Villa Hills were paying for the same service.
Ludlow, they said, had a higher rate per person.
Chief Wendt sent a letter earlier this year to the City of Bromley, suggesting that CS-VH had been providing 40 percent of Bromley's ambulance service - far higher than what is considered "mutual aid". Bromley voted to enter into a contract with CS-VH at the time, though a contract offer was also submitted by Ludlow. Bromley had previously contracted with a private ambulance company and also maintains its own volunteer fire department.
Mayor Donnie Jobe is also chief of the city's fire department.
"We as a board don't care what you guys do," said Ringo. "We're good with you or without you. But the mutual aid we were giving you got out of hand, and we felt it was fair for you to pay what the citizens in our city are paying."
Kienker said she didn't have a problem with any of that. She objected to the way the opportunity was presented to other departments.
Mayor Jobe said that when Bromley contracted with TransCare, a private ambulance company, all the residents in the city were covered, but the company folded, and the city went with Rural Metro, which he said got "too tied up with calls", and the city had to call in CS-VH for mutual aid.
Jobe pointed out that Ludlow sat in the council room early this year and stated that they wanted Bromley to do away with their Basic Life Support ambulance if they signed a contract with them.
Two newly elected members of the Bromley city council, who will take office in January, were present in the audience: Mike Kendall and Mike Denham. \
"I absolutely appreciate you inviting us to sit in on this," Kendall said. "Everyone in the city realizes the need for ALS service. We need to evaluate the economics versus the benefit. Everyone up there needs to take off their council and mayor hats, and become citizens for a moment. I do dozens of (requests for proposals) and Donnie is correct: if a company is interested, they can submit a bid knowing they do not meet the requirements. However, if I were Ludlow and I saw that they had to have a minimum of two ambulances, I wouldn't waste my time. It takes money to put together an RFP."
He went on to say that the amount of money they were talking wasn't just the $30,000 that was required for the CS-VH contract, but it cost the city an additional $11,000 to keep their own basic life services ambulance in service, so the city would actually be paying $41,000.
"In my opinion, and I don't want to say overkill, but if Ludlow could do it for $20,000 or so, that's a $10,000 savings," Kendall explained. "Now, if it is a matter of negotiating a contract, or saying to both of them, how can we work something else out?"
Mayor Jobe said he did not think Ludlow would negotiate, from what they have said in the past on the subject, and he thought their price was around $21,000 including a condition that Bromley take out their ambulance permanently.
Councilwoman Gail Smith read a letter from her father, Gary Smith, a former mayor and councilman. He explained that he thought the right ALS service would mean the difference between life and death, and it was not to be taken lightly. He recommended Crescent Springs-Villa Hills.
Councilman Charlie Foulks talked about ambulance charges he received and thought that Crescent Springs-Villa Hills ought to straighten out their billing. Chief Wendt said, if the department makes a mistake, it refunds the overage.
"I just want transparency," stated Kienker. "When I am doing something, I send out emails to everyone telling them what I am doing. This whole thing never had to happen. We could have averted this."
Councilwoman Dixie Meyer agreed, saying she was on the ambulance contract committee, and that she didn't know the ad was placed. She said it was a shame that Bromley and Ludlow had some tension. She said that she wants the new council to be present and have a say in the issue, but Smith said she thought having an escape clause that could be used if the new council wanted another service was a good thing. Councilman Bob France agreed that the clause was a good option. Kendall spoke up and said maybe the problem was that the council did not fully know what was in the contract.
Foulks called for a vote, and Smith, Foulks, and France voted to accept the contract with CS-VH, while Meyer and Kienker voted no, ending the issue.
One other item was on the agenda, and that was a contract to plow snow on all the streets and by the fire department, as well as to do maintenance of the plantings and lawn mowing in the city. The contract would be with Shane Hamant, of Hamant Lawn and Landscaping Service, for just under $24,000. Council voted unanimously to accept the contract.
Written by Patricia A. Scheyer, RCN contributor