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Ambulance bid is questioned
Written by Andrew Powell   
Friday, 16 October 2009
County officials have been ready to spend money on two new ambulances, but received sticker shock when opening bids for the vehicles Tuesday.
County officials have been ready to spend money on two new ambulances, but received sticker shock when opening bids for the vehicles Tuesday.

Despite accepting a bid on two new ambulances, McCreary County Judge-Executive Blaine Phillips says the county may need to shop around a little more.
The county, through Ambulance Service Director Amy Barnett, recently solicited bids for two new ambulances, vehicles that could replenish an aging fleet. Bids were opened Tuesday morning, but only one of the four companies returned a bid. That company, Arkansas-based Taylor Made, has worked with the county in recent years selling a similar ambulance to the county in 2006 for roughly $75,000. The company now wants more than $100,000 for a newer model ambulance built to similar specs.
“I just can’t help but question the cost,” Judge Phillips said Wednesday.
The Taylor Made bid totaled $219,000 for the two new trucks, including a warranty and delivery to Whitley City. One of the vehicles is a 2008 model the other a 2009 model, both Ford F-350 Type I ambulances. The county requested bids on 2009 model vehicles.
Barnett told court members the two different model year vehicles were included in the bid to “help offset costs.” The 2008 model will cost the county $108,000 and the 2009 will cost $111,000.
Bob Blevins, a local resident who said during the Tuesday meeting of Fiscal Court he worked for Taylor Made, told Judge Phillips the ambulances would be built to the specs set forth by the county, were new zero-mile vehicles, and come with Taylor Made’s full warranty.
The court accepted the bids Tuesday, but later that afternoon, Judge Phillips told Barnett not to act on the purchases just yet.
“I don’t understand why there are two different year vehicles nor am I comfortable with the cost,” Phillips told The Voice. “I talked to Amy and she said we could just reject those bids and bid them out again.”
Wednesday, Phillips and Deputy Judge-Executive Tony Jones, were calling the other companies included in the bidding process to inquire why a price was not submitted to the county. Judge Phillips said he also wanted to call several other counties to double check pricing on those type ambulances.

“I want to put this on hold until we can dig a little deeper to explore these costs,” Phillips said. “We accepted the initial bid, but have taken no other steps to purchase these vehicles.”  
Phillips told The Voice it is better to be skeptical when making such a large purchase than to take a misstep with taxpayer’s money.
“With everything going on and prices going up on everything, the costs could be in line, but we have to be sure,” he added.
Court members recently  approved the purchase of two new ambulances. The ambulance service has been plagued with an aging fleet, most vehicles hosting over 300,000 miles and consistently being sent to the shop for repairs. The county is licensed to operate five ambulances, but having five ambulances on the road at one time in recent months seemed to be a rare occurrence.
The county last purchased an ambulance in 2006 at a cost of $74,253 from Taylor Made. A vehicle was purchased in 2004 for a little more than $70,000.
The vehicle purchases are just a portion of the steps county officials have taken in an attempt to improve the service. Around the same time the most recent ambulance purchases were approved, county officials also moved to increase the number of full-time staff, including paramedics at the service. Some personnel, mostly EMTs, have been hired according to the court order, but paramedics are still being solicited.
The measure was taken to not only provide efficiency and more highly trained staff at the service, but to help prevent extensive overtime pay Judge Phillips says was costing the county thousands. The county will have nine full-time EMTs and seven full-time paramedics when all the approved hiring is complete.
Barnett, who also worked to implement a more efficient and employee friendly work schedule, said the new hirings, equipment purchases in conjunction with the schedule would have a “tremendous” affect on the efficiency of the service.

The ambulance service operates on user fees and occupational tax dollars under a $900,000 annual budget.
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