Ga. city signs off on ambulance agreement
The agreement pays Gold Cross a $400,000 subsidy for the remainder of the year, a $600,000 subsidy in 2020 and $650,000 in 2021 and 2022
By Tom Corwin
The Augusta Chronicle, Ga.
AUGUSTA, Ga. — The Augusta Commission finally approved Wednesday an agreement with Gold Cross EMS to be the city's emergency ambulance provider. It also signed off on a site on Broad Street for a new statue and park honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
The commission approved a Memorandum of Understanding with Gold Cross by a vote of 6-4, with Commissioners Bill Fennoy, Dennis Williams, Sammie Sias and Ben Hasan voting against it. The terms of the agreement were approved by the commission a month earlier after months of negotiations with Gold Cross, which is the state-designated emergency ambulance provider for Augusta but has been without a contract with the city since the end of 2016.
The agreement pays Gold Cross a $400,000 subsidy for the remainder of the year, a $600,000 subsidy in 2020 and $650,000 in 2021 and 2022. The city will set the billing rates for Gold Cross subject to an annual review of market conditions. Gold Cross will provide eight ambulances around the clock staffed by at least an advanced EMT while Augusta Fire Department will provide three with similar staffing.
Both Sias and Fennoy contended that the agreement ran afoul of the city's procurement policies.
"This to me is a back door method to get around our Procurement code," Sias said, an objection that had been made a month earlier when the commission approved the terms. General Counsel Wayne Brown said the agreement did not subvert the code because there was no way the contract could have been competitively bid because Gold Cross is the sole state-designated provider.
"In this instance, there is no other entity in the state or in the country we can get this service from other than Gold Cross," he said. A lawsuit over the designation is on appeal and the agreement would terminate should Gold Cross lose, Brown said. Gold Cross Chief Operating Officer Steven Vincent said the company is looking forward to working with Augusta for years to come.
"We appreciate the support the commissioners have placed in us to continue to provide exceptional quality patient care," he said. "We believe this MOU will strengthen the partnership we have with (Augusta) moving forward."
Also at the meeting, a committee that has been trying to get a statue and park honoring the slain Civil Rights leader since 2007 appealed to the commission to designate an area on Broad near 10th Street for that project but not everyone was on board. Commissioner Marion Williams, who is supportive of the memorial, questioned whether that site could handle the parking and traffic that memorial would generate.
"I just don't see the parking part," he said. "I'm thinking hundreds would be coming. I want to do this right. We've got to plan this well. I just don't think it is going to work in my mind."
Broad Street will get major renovations in the next few years funded by the Transportation Investment Act. While the city has seen concept drawings for those renovations, the engineering plans have yet to be finished, Engineering Director Hameed Malik said.
"I think we need to have more discussion" with the committee to ensure the renovated area will still work, he said.
The committee has also looked at the old Mother Trinity Christian Methodist Episcopal Church site at Eighth Street and Walton Way and an area across from the judicial center at James Brown Boulevard and Walton Way, said the Rev. Larry Fryer who is chairing the committee pushing the effort. But their preference is to be downtown, committee member Vanessa Davis said.
"We want exposure," she said. "We want people to actually visit it. Broad Street is the key to the city. We really think Tenth and Broad is our best exposure."
Commissioner Mary Davis moved that the commission approve the site as long as the discussions between Engineering and the committee continue, which was unanimously approved.
©2019 The Augusta Chronicle (Augusta, Ga.)