Steamboat City Council delays action on ambulance privatization
January 4, 2012
Steamboat Springs — The Steamboat Springs City Council delayed action Tuesday after a discussion about whether to submit bids for a private company to operate ambulance services in and around the city.
Privatizing ambulance service was part of a nearly three-hour discussion about fire-related issues. Council members also heard a presentation from a consultant who evaluated the city's fire and emergency services, including the relationship with the rural Steamboat Springs Area Fire Protection District, which contracts services from the city.
City Council member Cari Hermacinski supported issuing a request for proposals for private ambulance service. Other members resisted even though former Deputy City Manager Wendy DuBord said the city was ready to request bids.
DuBord said she has met with two companies that are responsible for 95 percent of the private ambulance services in the state. She said the companies have visited Steamboat and are willing to submit bids.
The fire protection district and Yampa Valley Medical Center also could submit bids.
DuBord said her research indicated that Steamboat was attractive to the companies because 66 percent of ambulance fees were recouped, higher than typical Front Range collection rates of about half.
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Deputy City Manager Deb Hinsvark said what isn't paid is subsidized by the city's general fund, which also supports other funds that are intended to be self-supporting.
City Council members Sonja Macys and Kevin Kaminski said the city should wait until after it gets the reports it requested from Steamboat Springs Fire Rescue Chief Ron Lindroth and the rural district's board of districts to respond to the consultant. Council members also asked for salary information and asked how it compared with similar departments in similar communities, which wasn't included in the consultant's report.
Lindroth said an informal salary survey he did using 2010 figures indicated that Steamboat's emergency responders are paid 12 to 35 percent less than at similar departments.
Hinsvark said a college intern who will start next week will conduct a salary survey of all city departments and could start with the fire department.
The consultant recommended that the city and district reach an agreement to collaborate as one entity that uses demand-based staffing and volunteer workers to cut costs that would be paid by a city and district property tax to relieve the burden on the city's general fund.
City Council members weren't ready to support those suggestions and wanted more information, which will be presented Feb. 7.