The Columbus City Council wants the Columbus Fire Department to be eliminated from consideration in the ongoing negotiations over a city/county emergency ambulance contract.
Instead, council members want Columbus Regional Hospital to continue handling local ambulance service for at least another year.
The City Council reached that consensus Monday during the opening day of city budget hearings, in which city departments made their cases for 2013 spending. The hearings will conclude today.
The ambulance contract decision ultimately will be made by the Board of Works and Public Safety, a group that is appointed by and includes Mayor Kristen Brown.
But during the ambulance discussion at the City Council budget hearings, the council decided to set aside nearly $300,000 for ambulance service, to give the city the flexibility to go with the hospital plan to operate four ambulances in 2013.
Then, when that year is over, a year’s worth of previously unavailable response-time data would be available for the Board of Works to make a more informed decision about a provider.
For the city fire department to be a viable option, the council would have needed to set aside about $1.9 million for the city to hire personnel, buy equipment and otherwise put itself in position to perform the ambulance service.
That means that, although the works board still could choose the fire department, it would have to persuade the City Council to greatly increase the amount set aside to make it happen. Otherwise, the fire department would be eliminated by default, council member Ryan Brand said.
The nearly $300,000 figure is just shy of half the combined amount that the city and county would have to pay for the hospital to keep the service next year.
The County Commissioners and hospital would have to sign off on the one-year agreement for it to take effect.
The City Council was not interested in an alternate hospital model that called for three ambulances instead of four.
The city administration had specified since the beginning that a minimum of four ambulances were mandatory.
The three-member Board of Works is scheduled to decide on Aug. 7 which of the five competing entities should get the next ambulance service contract.
Private companies — Rural/Metro and Trans-Care — have proposed to perform the service for no subsidy at all.
The board would not need City Council funds to go with one of those companies.
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