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City officials have all the information they need to choose an emergency ambulance provider, and putting off the decision is unnecessary, according to most of the board tasked with awarding that contract.
Mayor Kristen Brown and the Board of Works and Public Safety already have agreed to one delay, pushing the decision off until Tuesday. But an advisory board plans to ask the Board of Works for another postponement so it can continue to review the proposals.
Brown, who is one of the works board’s three members, said she would need to hear a compelling argument to convince her that any more information will be provided at this point. That’s why she wants to make a decision Tuesday.
Brown said Columbus Regional Hospital, which is one of the ambulance service contenders and the current provider, has not submitted adequate response-time data and probably won’t at this point. Hospital officials said they have been busy replying to a variety of ambulance service inquiries since March. However, the hospital didn’t have the ability to separate city and county runs until February.
Works board member Susan Fye shares the mayor’s opinion that another week — or even another month or more — would not yield any more information helpful to reaching a decision.
Fye said she doesn’t mind waiting another week, if necessary, but has grown convinced after months of trying to get response times from the hospital that the decision might as well be made sooner than later. She said she also never got from the hospital an explanation about how it calculated its need for a subsidy.
The works board’s third member, Jayne Farber, said she would prefer to give the selection process as much time as possible. The hospital has been releasing at least some information, she said, and the overall financial picture is growing clearer.
But she added that there will come a point when the works board has to make do with what it has and choose a provider.
“I don’t have the sense of frustration that the other members have with waiting for information,” Farber said.
Besides the hospital, the other ambulance service contenders are the Columbus Fire Department and private companies Rural/Metro, Seals and Trans-Care. Rural/Metro and Trans-Care are the only entities to propose to operate the ambulance with no public subsidies, which several City Council members said they prefer.
All the private companies and the city fire department have provided every statistic and every process requested of them, Brown said.
City budget hearings are coming July 30 and 31, and the mayor wants to have the matter resolved before then.
Bartholomew County Commissioner Carl Lienhoop serves on the Columbus Emergency Ambulance Services Board, which is advising the Board of Works on its decision. He suggested at an ambulance panel meeting on Tuesday that the city and county each could set aside $200,000 in their budgets so they know the money is there to cover any of the ambulance service options.
That way, officials can take their time choosing a provider so they know the decision is the best one possible, he said.
Farber said the $200,000 placeholder suggestion sounds reasonable. But because she started on the Board of Works just six weeks ago, she said she is not familiar enough with the city budgeting process to know if the suggestion would work.
Fye said any such financial decision would have to be made by the City Council.
Although the City Council is not directly involved with negotiating the contract, a majority of the council members are in favor of going with a provider that will not charge a subsidy for the service.
Council members Tim Shuffett, Ryan Brand, Aaron Hankins and Jim Lienhoop said they are in favor of going with no subsidies, and council member Frank Miller said he also likes the idea.
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