Ambulance contract in dispute

Jeff Meyer, Tracy Ambulance Service representative, addressed the Tracy City Council at its most recent meeting concerning the service’s contract with the City of Tracy. Photo / Per Peterson

Service: Recently-approved contract of $17,500/year falls short of meeting its needs

By Per Peterson

Citing rising costs to provide its service to Tracy and the area, Jeff Meyer from the Tracy Ambulance Service Board last week informed the Tracy City Council that the recent contract it approved isn’t sufficient, potentially leaving the future of ambulance service in Tracy in limbo.

The current contract between the City and Tracy Ambulance Service expires at the end of the year. On Nov. 8, the council voted 5-2 to revise the terms of the contract. The expiring contract was for five years for a lump sum of $140,000, paid to Tracy Ambulance. The City has $60,000 remaining from the sale of the hospital to use for health-related initiatives. Although the City’s recommendation was to enter a four-year contract for $15,000 per year, the council, after lengthy discussion over terms of a new contract, voted to allocate $17,500 per year for three years; the fourth year will be budgeted, which means the $60,000 in the hospital fund will be used, and another $10,000 will be taken from the City’s General Fund.

“The issue is, the City of Tracy no longer has that pot of $200,000 that can be used for health care purposes — we’ve spent $140,000 of it, now there’s $60,000 left,” council member Seth Schmidt said at the council meeting. “It’s just an issue that we’re going to have to grapple with — at what level can the City of Tracy help provide funding for the ambulance service?”

Tracy Ambulance had requested a new contract for $30,000 per year for operational support — a number it came up with based on population, average calls and market value in its Primary Service Area. Tracy Ambulance serves seven townships, covering about 192 square miles, not counting the City of Tracy.

“You had offered us $17,500 per year … moving forward, that’s kind of an unworkable solution — it would be $12,500 per year less than what we’re asking,” said Meyer, who represents Shetek Township on the ambulance board. “I appreciate the offer of $17,500 per year, but that’s kind of an unworkable solution for us.”

Charlie DeSchepper, president of the Tracy Ambulance Board, this week expressed his frustration over the issue, wondering why the ambulance service should have to “beg” for more money from the City. He added that he wants to avoid “playing politics with anybody’s life” with the City and the council.

“There’s no room for politics in your family’s life, in my family’s life — when somebody needs help, they need help,” DeSchepper said in an interview with the Tracy Area Headlight Herald on Monday. “We’re not going to play the political game. Why should volunteers who are trained in Advanced Life Support and Basic Life Support have to beg to be funded for such an important service to the community?”

See this week’s Headlight Herald for more on this article.