Bid out service for ambulance, chamber says

The Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce has asked the Grand Junction City Council to reconsider its decision not to bid out a portion of the city’s ambulance service, claiming the city hasn’t conducted a thorough enough public review of the current system.

In a letter written to the council Thursday, Chamber President and Chief Executive Officer Diane Schwenke indicated the chamber is disappointed the city chose not to proceed with a bidding process as originally planned and “finds the lack of transparency in the process particularly disturbing.”

“It just feels like we’re not exploring all of the options and getting all of the information before making this decision,” Schwenke said in an interview Friday.

City officials, though, say they discussed ambulance service on several occasions during the past month and believe the Grand Junction Fire Department provides better service than a partnership with a private agency would.

“Our first concern is always: What’s the best EMS service we can deliver to our citizens? And we believe the Grand Junction Fire Department is the proper choice,” Councilman Gregg Palmer said.

Five years ago, the city selected the Fire Department to be the sole ambulance-service provider, ending a practice in which the city acted as the first responder to a scene, and a private company handled most ambulance transports. City officials said they would re-examine the system at the end of the Fire Department’s five-year contract and seek bids for service.

As recently as three weeks ago, council members reasserted that intention, though they indicated they may limit private-sector bids to only non-emergency ambulance service. Schwenke said city officials asked the chamber to participate in reviewing the bids, and she had arranged for two chamber board members to sit on an evaluation panel.

But on Wednesday, following a four-hour workshop, the council changed course and informally decided to continue ambulance service within the Fire Department.

Schwenke questioned the reversal based solely on the workshop and said the decision should have been made after consulting with other stakeholders, including the private sector.

“There’s a pattern here, from a chamber perspective, we have real concerns about,” Schwenke said, pointing to the controversy over how the city initially handled securing a food vendor at Tiara Rado Golf Course.

Palmer, however, said the chamber and others had several opportunities to comment on the possibility of the city bidding out ambulance service.

The council held three workshops in a little more than a month, and Palmer said he is not aware that “chamber people showed up to attend” those meetings.

He said switching back to a two-tiered system would have cost the city $600,000 a year and forced the elimination of 14 full- and part-time positions without providing any apparent service benefits. In addition, he said, local medical professionals encouraged the city to stick with the Fire Department.

Council members are expected to further discuss their decision during a meeting Monday night. City spokeswoman Sam Rainguet said a formal vote won’t be taken and isn’t necessary.


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