HOUSTON — The fiscal officer of the Houston Joint Ambulance District Board, Glenda Stangel, wants it known why the board was unable to accept a contract submitted in December by the city of Sidney for ambulance emergency services from Sidney Fire.
Sidney City Council adopted legislation Dec. 14, 2020, for the city to enter into a contract with the Houston Joint Ambulance District to provide emergency ambulance service to Houston for six months to help with its need due to lack of staffing after Fire Chief Chad Hollinger recommended to not extend Sidney’s mutual aid agreement with Houston past Dec. 31. The agreement was no longer effective because of Houston’s significant staffing issues and therefore its inability to reciprocate mutual aid to Sidney.
The board met on Dec. 22, 2020, to review the contract submitted by the city of Sidney.
“The Houston Joint Ambulance District Board turned down the city of Sidney’s fire and rescue services due to the fact that they wanted $26,900, plus some, by Dec. 31, 2020. We had only $3,500 in a checking account. Plus, they only wanted to cover six months, and no more. They were not going to renew that contract,” Stangel said.
Hollinger told Sidney City Council at its Jan. 4 workshop session he had expected Houston to accept the contract, but it was declined because the Houston Joint Ambulance District had accepted a contract of a private ambulance company to provide service to its area.
“We went with Spirit Medical Transport because they were willing to be paid twice a year and provide service for the whole next year,” Stangel told the Sidney Daily News.
Hollinger, who attended the December Houston Joint Ambulance District Board meeting, Stangel said, was asked if Sidney could accept a partial payment, with the remainder to be paid in April after tax revenue was collected. Hollinger said that question was “beyond (his) pay scale,” and he would need to go back to Sidney City Council for authorization, which would not meet again until January, she said. Stangel noted the board never heard anything back from Sidney about accepting a partial payment.
“I wasn’t going to write a bad check for money we didn’t have in the account,” she said.
“At the point (the Houston Joint Ambulance District Board) accepted the contract from Spirit, they had made their choice and there was really no other deliberations, from my perspective, that needed to happen,” Hollinger told the Sidney Daily News when asked about Stangel’s comments. “They had chosen to go with Spirit. So, at that point I came back to the city, I advised the city manager what they had decided, and I reported back to council at the workshop session the same.”
Stangel said, “We went with a privately owned company because they were willing to help us out and Sidney was not. And (the contract) was only for six months. So, as of July 1, 2021, we would be out of luck and have to start it all again to find help. (Spirit) has 26 ambulances, or so I was told. They came to our meeting and showed us a contract and is willing to get paid twice a year, like Houston Rescue services.”
Hollinger said Sidney was willing to help for six months to give Houston time to recruit and rebuild their rescue staff.
“It was our intent to provide them services for six months. And I did say at that board meeting in December that I was not authorized to negotiate details of the contact at that time. That was the contract that I was approved to present and answer any questions on. They did ask if a partial payment could be made, and I said I would have to take it back to the city manger and city council for approval. In my position as the chief, I am not authorized to make that decision. But I did indicate that I would be willing to take the proposal back (to council) for further deliberation. And it was shortly thereafter that Mr. (Brian) Hathaway (president/CEO of Spirit Medical Transport) made his proposal, and they choose to go the direction they did, and that is within their right.”
“And I hope it works out for them. I hope that they are happy with the service that they choose. And if some point in the future if (Houston Joint Ambulance District Board) have with a local EMS agency again, we would be more than happy to sit down with them again and entertain mutual aid. But at this time, like we said at the workshop session, I can’t in good conscience go to the people of Sidney and ask them to let me enter into mutual aid with a for-profit company. Because that would mean at times Sidney tax dollars are subsidizing an agency that is for profit,” Hollinger said.
Stangel said the board “is trying (their) best to help the Houston Rescue services get back onto its feet.” The hope, she said, is to bring forth a real estate tax levy in the spring to help fund the Houston Rescue Squad. They have until Feb. 3, she noted, to get everything lined up for the May 4 primary election.
Reach the writer at 937-538-4823.