COLUMBUS Mayor Kristen Brown sounded the right note last week in announcing that the Board of Works would postpone by two weeks making a decision on an entity that will provide ambulance service to the city.
The action gives a number of parties breathing room in their efforts to present or obtain information relating to the proposals that have been presented to the Board of Works. But, perhaps most importantly, it provides an opportunity for community leaders to exchange information and recommendations with the mayor and other members of the Board of Works.
Make no mistake, this decision on the provider by law rests with the three members of this board. Other entities, such as the City Council, would become involved only in the funding process should the Board of Works select a provider that would ask for a subsidy.
While technically the Board of Works could proceed without consulting anyone else, cooperation and collaboration between governmental units and the private sector have always been key ingredients for success in any major undertaking locally.
By agreeing to this delay, Brown has signaled a willingness to work with others in providing the community with the best ambulance service possible at the most advantageous rate to taxpayers and users. That spirit of collaboration is essential in this process, which should be multifaceted.
Although the immediate issue at hand is the selection of a provider for the city, an equally important decision lies ahead in how this service can be turned into a collaborative effort that serves both city and county residents.
Whether such an arrangement could be melded into the process currently being studied or could be negotiated at a later date remains to be seen. The important issue at hand is that a joint service emerge that would be fair to both the city and the county.
The city and county have relied on this joint service for decades: in the years since 2005 when Columbus Regional Hospital became the provider; before that when the service operated out of the Columbus Fire Department as Medic I; and before that, as Operation Life.
Under the contract with the hospital, the city and county paid individual subsidies to the provider. Under the fire department operation, the county paid a subsidy to the city.
Drawn out as this process has been, it has served one valuable purpose in that the public has had a greater involvement and awareness of the process than at any previous time.
Both Brown and the Bartholomew County Board of Commissioners deserve commendation for starting that ball on a roll.
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