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Lowndes County to accept proposals for ambulance contract

With a contract expiring at the end of June, the Lowndes County Commission discussed ambulance service in the county during its teleconference meeting on Tuesday.

The current contract is with CARE Ambulance Service. Commissioners want to look at costs that would make an additional ambulance available in the county, especially when the ambulance is transporting patients out of the county to area hospitals.

“We are sending out a copy of a request for proposal for ambulance service for Lowndes County,” County Administrator Jacqueline Thomas said. “It’s the same request we’ve sent out before. I’m going to try to find every ambulance service within 30 miles of us to send out requests to.”

The current contract expires June 30.

“We have in the letter that we will accept proposals up until May 13,” Thomas said. “I would like for us to meet on May 18 instead of meeting May 11 to give them an opportunity to get their proposals in, that way I can send them all to you to review before the meeting on the 18th.”

With the new contract set to begin in July, Commissioner Robert Harris was concerned that companies only had about 14 days to prepare and submit proposals. He said he felt it should be at least three weeks.

Thomas said that moving the deadline to May 25 would allow companies more time and that it would permit advertising the request for proposals for three weeks.

“If we put it in there for an amount of time, we would get a decent response,” Harris said. “We would give people a chance to actually gather all the information they need.”

Harris said one of the major concerns in looking at contracts would be backup for covering Lowndes County. Thomas then suggested that companies submit two proposals.

“One would be with the backup and one without the backup,” she said. “That was the problem with the ambulance services that we have now. They said they could do the backup, but the cost is the reason why we didn’t go with it — because of the additional cost to get a second ambulance in the county.”

Harris said the proposal should include stipulations for when an ambulance leaves the county.

“I’m not saying that they have to house two ambulance, I’m just saying that another one needs to be in the county if the first one is going to transfer out,” Harris said.

Attorney Hank Sanders said the proposal covered those instances.

“Last time they submitted the price for one and then they submitted the price for a second ambulance,” Sanders said. “The amount far more than the county was able to deal with. We had negotiations back and forth about doing better backup with what they had.”

Harris said the additional cost was to have an additional ambulance housed in Lowndes County.

“I’m saying to have one to come and sit inside of the county while one is transporting out of the county,” Harris said. “They can get one from Selma or Montgomery to get to sit in whatever part of the county they want it in until the other one comes back into the county.”

Sanders said he could work with Thomas to ensure it was advertised that way. Harris said they could always negotiate with the companies. Commissioner Joseph Bargainer recommended that the county ask for two separate proposals.

“Couldn’t it be put in the contract that Lowndes County would be provided with an ambulance at all times, which would cover when one leaves?”  Thomas asked.

“I don’t think that would be sufficient,” Sanders said.

Harris said the biggest challenge was not having any coverage while an ambulance was out of the county.

“You have a whole, entire county to cover,” Harris said. “You have 40 miles between some parts of the county to get to. If they’re in Montgomery, then who is going to come down? You have some times where more than one incident that takes place. We’re paying $20,000 a month — they ought to have something.”

Commissioner Joshua Simmons recommended sending the requests out and seeing the feedback from ambulance companies.

Thomas said the proposal requests would be advertised and sent to companies and the commission would have to follow up. The commission will discuss the bids in late May.