A 15-year reign of rural metro as the contracted county emergency ambulance service operator could be in jeopardy.
A Shelby County Commission committee voted to recommend approval of the Luttrell administration's proposal to change the service over to American Medical Response.
But, was the bidding process conducted with all the pertinent facts needed to make a decision?
More an more it looks as if Shelby County municipalities are taking up the dare Fleetwood Mac once sang about in the song "If You Go Your Own Way." From going forward with creating their own school districts to pulling out of the county's emergency ambulance services operation, Collierville and Germantown, join Bartlett in continuing to chart their own pathways to the future.
Republican Shelby County Commissioner Wyatt Bunker is a staunch believer in "what's fair is fair" when it comes to doling out county service contracts. But, after seven years in office, he also is aware that when he feels something isn't fairly handed, the culprit is usually behind the scenes political maneuvering.
"You want both AMR and Rural Metro to bid a demand system without Collierville and Germantown," Commissioner Bunker said. "They haven't done that. This is prior to the award of a contract. So, I see no reason why we wouldn't bid it again."
Bunker's ire was raised by what he felt was a "ring around the rosie" explanation from county administration as to how American Medical Response of Tennessee was recommended to be awarded a five-year contract at $1.7 million annually to operate the county's emergency ambulance services. A bid made, a bid recommended without the knowledge the city of Collierville is strongly considering joining Germantown in pulling out of the service.
Rural Metro general manager Glenn Miller said the administration's error by omission of that information should have been a "game-changer" in the bidding process.
"When I got word the county was going to award the contract to AMR, I called the administration," Miller said. "I said, 'how are you going to do that when you have no idea who's going to be involved in the contract?'"
Although no one was available to come on camera, Collierville Public Information Officer Mark Highberger did confirm, City Manager James Lewellyn has been looking into other options for ambulance service. While a final decision won't come until the city's Board of Aldermen meeting on June 10, it looks like they'll go shopping for their own emergency service company.
With them will go the thousands of dollars that have paid for 17 percent of the entire county service bill.
"They constitute quite a few calls," Commissioner Bunker said. "I think somewhere upwards toward 2,000 calls maybe a year."
"Collierville has contributed around $400,000 a year to the system," Miller said. "Collierville is a little more than 24 square miles."
Miller says an ambulance service contract stripped down to three municipalities would have figured into a different bid strategy.
"It takes a lot of effort to go in and look at how it affects the resources that you have to put on the road," he said. "Make sure that you make your response times as well as the revenue it generates to figure out what your bid's going to be."
Despite a recommendation to approve the contract deal with AMR, commissioners will take up the matter in full on May 20. It might be a good idea to have some ambulances on stand by.