BUCYRUS – A new company will begin providing ambulance services Nov. 1 to communities in Crawford County that are members of the Central Joint Ambulance District, two months ahead of schedule.
Portsmouth Emergency Ambulance Service, Inc. — based out of the city of Portsmouth — was originally scheduled to assume those duties after the first of the year, according to Kevin Myers, the Bucyrus council member who represents the city as a board member of the ambulance district.
“Then the current company asked to be released from their contract Oct. 31,” Myers said.
That company — Life Support Team, based in Galion — has provided ambulance service to the district since 2014. The company accepted a four-year bid at the time, with no annual fee for cities and townships in the district.
Portsmouth Emergency Ambulance Service entered the picture over the summer after members of both the ambulance district and Bucyrus City Council began to wonder if Life Support Team would begin wanting a flat rate on top of the amount of money collected from patients and insurance companies.
Myers said that at one point the city considered forming its own ambulance service, which he said would have required the city to hire at least six new employees at a rate of nearly $90,000 apiece annually, including wages and benefits. The city’s total expenditures could have exceeded $540,000 each year, which Myers said didn’t even address the purchase of a second ambulance to add to the city’s fleet.
“It was too risky for me to think we could do this on our own,” Myers said.
Myers and other council members voted the idea down in favor of teaming up with the other communities in the ambulance district to seek a three-year contract with a third-party ambulance service.
“They got two bids back: one from Portsmouth, and one from Life Support,” Bucyrus Service-Safety Director Jeff Wagner said.
Those bids were drastically different — Myers said Portsmouth Emergency Ambulance Service asked for $673,800 for three years of coverage, while Life Support Team submitted a bid of $11 million for the same period of time. It didn’t long for board members to accept the contract with the company from Portsmouth.
“Their ambulances will be white with a red stripe,” Myers said. “And letters that say ‘Portsmouth.'”
The company will continue using the station at Plymouth Street and North Sandusky Avenue, which Wagner said will remain city-owned.
“We lease it to the district, and they in turn rent it to an ambulance service,” Wagner said of the building.
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Although residents themselves will see little immediate change with the new contract, the city and township governments within the district will be required to cover the cost of the service’s contract. Those payments will be split among the member entities based upon the number of residents in each.
“We’re paying almost 50 percent of the bill a month,” Wagner said.
Myers said the $673,800 of the three-year contract will be paid in different amounts each year, with annual payment averaging about $224,300. The city of Bucyrus will pay $7,500 each month for the first year of the contract. Myers said monthly payment schedules for every entity within the district will soon be established.
Since those payments were not factored into the budgets submitted by those governmental bodies last year, Myers said the money will need to be recouped at some point.
“I think down the road, you’re going to have to see some new taxes,” Myers said.
Areas included in the Central Joint Ambulance District are the City of Bucyrus, the Village of New Washington, Auburn Township, Bucyrus Township, Chatfield Township, Cranberry Township, Dallas Township, Holmes Township, Jackson Township, Jefferson Township, Liberty Township, Lykens Township, Sandusky Township, Vernon Township and Whetstone Township.