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Ambulance dance continues 

Seeking to diffuse "angst" among the city, county and the county's emergency ambulance contractor, the Colorado Springs Fire Department is applying for permission to license two squad vehicles for patient transport.

The vehicles, one based at Station 7 at Palmer Park and Academy boulevards and the other at fire headquarters on Printer's Parkway, currently respond to calls throughout the city but focus on the southeast. Battalion Chief Keith Buckmiller says they transport patients to hospitals when American Medical Response has no ambulances available. ESA records show nine instances from Jan. 1 through Oct. 31 when AMR got caught short of ambulances while a call was pending.

The city hasn't been licensed for patient transport, however. And even though she doesn't know of any potential liability for transporting patients without licenses, that's frustrated Sallie Clark, an El Paso County commissioner and member of the Emergency Services Agency, which oversees the AMR contract. "We knew the city was utilizing these vehicles [for transport]," she says, "and they're not inspected and necessarily up to par in terms of what everyone else was expected to do."

Buckmiller says because the Springs is a home-rule city, it's never actually been required to obtain licensing through the county. Regardless, the applications are now in, with county commissioners scheduled to consider them Tuesday.

Still, not all the angst is likely to disappear.

Clark says having these vehicles licensed could serve as a pilot program for the city taking over transport ("Ambulance rush," News, Oct. 10). The city is seeking up to $2.4 million from AMR to continue operating in the city. If the city were to elbow AMR out, the county would be hard-pressed to attract an emergency provider for its low-volume rural areas.

Buckmiller denies any connection between squad licensing and the $2.4 million, saying it makes financial sense to run squads rather than fire engines, which cost about $380,000 to replace, compared to $150,000 per squad vehicle. He adds that fire officials are drafting a contract with AMR, which must be approved by the ESA board, probably at its January meeting.

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