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Floyd County Ambulance Commission looks at three-year AMR contract options

By Bob Steenson,

Members of the Floyd County Ambulance Commission are leaning toward recommending the Charles City Council and the Floyd County Board of Supervisors approve a new three-year contract with AMR.

One question is whether that contract should include an “escape clause” in case the city and the county decide they want to use some other option for ambulance services, and how much getting out of the contract should cost.

Commission members representing the city, county and Floyd County Medical Center held a meeting Wednesday afternoon where they looked at three versions of a contract with AMR that could take affect for the new fiscal year beginning July 1.

Each version would require the city and county to share in subsidizing the cost of service from AMR, either splitting a total of $525,000 ($262,500 each) in payments to AMR over three years, or paying the equivalent of $200,000 ($100,000 each) per year in a month-to-month contract.

The contracts the commission looked at did not include rates for the services AMR would charge people it transports, and did not include financial information about the company that commission members said they would like to see before making a decision.

AMR Regional Director Brian Gerth said he had sent the rates list to Steve Diers, Charles City city administrator, that morning and it could be included as an appendix to the contract, and Diers had some financial information from AMR from previous years that he shared with the commission.

Gerth said AMR would also supply additional financial information if the commission needs it.

The first two contract options call for a three-year contract option among AMR, Charles City and Floyd County. Both call for a subsidy of $150,000 for AMR the first year, $175,000 the second year and $200,000 the third year, with each year’s payment split between the city and the county.

Both the City Council and Board of Supervisors have set aside $75,000 to support ambulance services in their next fiscal year budgets.

The third option is for a payment of $16,666.67 per month, the equivalent of $200,000 per year, split between the city and county.

The only difference between the two three-year options is the second allows the city and county to buy their way out of the contract, for $75,000 after the first year and $50,000 after the second year.

Gerth said AMR will make significant capital investments in equipment if it enters a three-year contract, and it needs some way to recoup those costs if the city and county cancel the contract.

“Our preference clearly is for the three-year,” Genth said. “We want to be able to offer our employees stability, and shorter contracts like one year make them worried and it’s harder to staff things when you have a possible changing of the guard every year.”

Keith Starr, a Charles City Council member who is chairman of the ambulance commission, said he liked the three-year options, and as long as they were going with that they might as well choose the one with the buyout choice.

“I like having the stability of the people here, too. They’ve done a good job over the periods for us and it’s been very steady,” Starr said.

“If we find something that we think is so wonderful that it’s worth us writing a check to have AMR go, then we’ve got an out,” Starr said. “It’s not like we’re locked for three years, period.”

Medical Center Administrator Rod Nordeng said he favored a three-year contract, as did Charles City Police Chief Hugh Anderson and Charles City Fire Chief Eric Whipple.

Roy Schwickerath, a Floyd County supervisor representing the county, said he wanted a contract with a buy-out option.

“If we do a three-year and we don’t put any options to do something different, which we’ve been talking about the last six months or longer, it really ties us up, and I think that’s a mistake,” Schwickerath said.

He also said he thought the buy-out amounts listed were too high, suggesting figures at least $25,000 lower for each year.

Genth said he would rework the contracts to take into consideration some of the suggestions made at the meeting, to fix some language errors and ommissions, and bring them back for another ambulance commission meeting Tuesday, June 9.

Both the city attorney and county attorney need to go over the contacts, and Diers said the city’s insurance people should look at it as well.

The hope is that a final contract will be ready for the City Council to look at during a workshop meeting June 10 and then approve at a regular meeting June 15, and for the supervisors to look at during a planning session June 15 and approve at a regular meeting June 16.