Ambulance angst grips El Paso County 

Springs' decision to go it alone puts former partners in potentially difficult position

Colorado Springs' decision to negotiate its own contract for emergency services "sets [the county] back years," says El Paso County Commissioner Sallie Clark.

"It's unfortunate that the city believes that they're the ... gorilla that can take over," says Clark.

Last Wednesday, Springs Fire Chief Rich Brown announced to the regional Emergency Services Agency board that the city planned to issue its own request for proposals for ambulance transport, aiming to have a new contract in place for April 2014. If smaller municipalities or fire districts want in, they fear that they'll have to go along with whatever the city decides.

The ESA has handled ambulance contracting for the region, through American Medical Response, since the mid-'90s. The board is made up of representatives from the city and the county government as well as the other stakeholders, including hospitals and medical professionals, the smaller municipalities and the fire districts. By throwing their lot in together, ESA members say, those entities are able to afford a service that can be expensive.

"When you pull one entity out that does have such a high call volume, it takes away our leverage as a community to be able to negotiate for competitive terms," Clark says. "And I don't see the county signing onto a city contract. ... I haven't heard from the city what they are trying to accomplish."

As the Indy has reported ("Hitting where it hurts," News, Jan. 16), city officials are seeking to charge any future emergency service provider up to $2.4 million a year in franchise fees, a move that could raise costs for patients.

Colorado Springs Councilor Merv Bennett, the city's point man for this discussion, says that he would like to see a joint RFP between the city and the ESA or county.

"The city administration has told me they're willing to do that," he says, "but that would be a decision by our friends in the county and ESA."


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