Three Capital District emergency medical were vying to serve Saratoga Springs Wednesday, Feb. 25, when they presented slideshows of their track records to the City Council and nearly 50 members of the public.
The companies, Empire EMS, Mohawk Ambulance Service and Saratoga Emergency Medical Services, were asked by Public Safety Commissioner Ron Kim to present their companies in a workshop at Town Hall so that the public would get an opportunity to learn more about the choices that lie ahead for the Council.
Really, it’s a way to sort of air out the proposals, Kim said, before explaining that even before these `tough economic times,` he began looking into the issue of whether the city’s EMS was bringing in as much revenue as it could be.
Saratoga Emergency Medical Services, or SEMS, has been serving the city for the past 40 years. Its vice president, George Miller, said the company does not have a plan for an increased stream of revenue, and it was the only company that did not present the council with an expected revenue amount.
`I had actually hoped that they would come across with a better revenue [plan] without taxpayers footing the bill,` Kim said.
Chief Operating Officer for Empire EMS Michael Aquino’s proposal outlined that they would pay the city $100,000 in rent at the new West Avenue location, as well as bring in $185,000 in Advanced Life Support reimbursement, totaling $285,000 in revenue for the city.
Aquino also said the company has an average response time of eight minutes or less, and that the latest in technology is used in Empire’s vehicles, including GPS tracking.
`Our highest priority will be to the people of Saratoga Springs and neighboring areas,` he said.
Mohawk agreed to pay `fair market value` for rent, and expected to bring in about $140,000 to $180,000 in ALS reimbursement, according to Vice President of Operations Richard Brandt.
`We have a proven record for success,` Brandt said, before reminding council members and the public that Mohawk is the preferred ambulance service of the New York Racing Association during the Saratoga track season, as well as during concert events at Saratoga Performing Arts Center.
Both Mohawk and Empire presented a plan to maintain 24/7 dispatch service, and Mohawk promised to have a minimum of two dispatchers by the phone at one time.
Aside from claiming to be `the largest provider [of EMS] in the Capital Region,` Brandt also presented an offer for Mohawk to buy SEMS’ equipment at fair market value should they not be chosen for the bid.
While SEMS does have a history with the town, its existence is at stake, Miller explained, with the entire requests for proposal process.
`The income derived from choosing one of the other bids is approximately 0.5 percent of the city’s 2009 budget,` Miller said during the presentation. `Is that enough to offset the loss of more than 30 jobs and the loss of a not-for-profit agency which has served the city for 40 years?`
Miller said SEMS can’t compete, as a not-for-profit, with the for-profit agencies that presented their proposals that night, but that, `Our ambulances say ‘Saratoga’ on their sides, not a corporate entity.`
While Kim said he understands SEMS has been servicing the city for the past number of years, `We can’t not look at this.`
Kim would not comment on whether he was in favor of SEMS continuing service for the City of Saratoga Springs, but he did say, `I have, in the past, bid out the same contracts, but it’s also important to know what’s out there in the market.`
When asked if the main concern with this issue was the money, Kim responded that the other primary issue is the ALS, but that the city now knows one company is willing to pay $100,000 rent.
`This is real money,` he said.
Kim said there is no timetable for when a decision needs to be made on which EMS company will service the town. But as the employees of SEMS await a decision on their company’s fate, Miller wanted to remind council members and the public that, `If SEMS goes away, it can’t come back.“