During a special called meeting Oct. 30, officials voted to delay to a later meeting a vote to contract with Acadian Ambulance Services LLC.
The postponement comes after discussion of the partnership during previous regular council meetings that saw members of the community and Travis County ESD No. 2 more commonly referred to as the Pflugerville Fire Department, pan council's actions.
On Oct. 30, Travis County commissioners Jeff Travillion and Brigid Shea issued a statement condemning the contract with Acadian and calling on all residents of Pflugerville and in its extraterritorial jurisdiction to vote yes on a Nov. 2 ballot initiative for the newly created ESD No. 17 overlay district to annex both areas.
"Voting for ESD 17 means saying no to for-profit corporate ambulances that are known for long response times to emergencies, that can cost you twice as much and who aggressively debt collect to include even putting liens on people's homes," the statement said.
The commissioners' statement also lauded Pflugerville Fire Department for its achievement of an ISO Class 1 Designation, an industry status that less than 1% of departments attain nationally, according to the release.
At the Oct. 30 meeting, several Pflugerville residents spoke against the city contracting with Acadian and urged city officials to wait until after the election to pursue the matter.
During public comment, Pflugerville City Council candidate Kimberly Holiday asked officials why they are rushing the process.
"I stand before you to ask that we only delay this decision until the voices of the people of Pflugerville have been heard on Nov. 2," Holiday said.
During previous council meetings, PFD Chief Nick Perkins said Pflugerville and its ETJ require at least six ambulances to keep emergency response times at an average of 8 minutes—an assertion echoed by representatives from Allegiance Mobile Health, another private emergency service provider that bid to contract with the city.
Acadian has said in previous meetings it would start with four ambulances in Pflugerville should the contract go through.
Asked on Oct. 26 to justify their claim that they could meet an average 8-minute response time with four ambulances, Rusty Wood, director of operations for Acadian, told council that if a need arises for more ambulances in the Pflugerville service area, Acadian would provide them.
In an Oct. 30 statement to Pflugerville Mayor Victor Gonzales and City Council, Perkins said Acadian's response times are subpar, and further condemned the company for its debt collection practices.
"The for-profit ambulance business model is built upon underperformance because there is no community investment," Perkins said in the statement. "The for-profit company will gladly pay violation fines to the city to underperform as a cost of doing business. The citizen having their worst day is the only one who suffers, and will be billed aggressively. I don’t think anyone wants this for our community."
Perkins included performance assessments of Acadian in his emailed statement.
As one example, an evaluation of Acadian's response performance in Bastrop County for August shows that of 746 total calls for service, the company committed 146 total violations.
The evaluation did not specify or define what constitutes a violation.
Following the postponement of a vote on contracting with Acadian, Mayor Pro Tem Omar Pena addressed accusations from some Pflugerville residents who thought actions from council were in some way meant to suppress voters ahead of the Nov. 2 election.
"There is quite a bit of motion that has been around this for some time, around the ... actions taken by ESDs 2 and 17, that are causing us great concern," Pena said. "We have to be cognizant of any and all actions that affect the citizens of Pflugerville, and that is our sole intent."
He said it is ludicrous and insulting to think council is attempting to suppress citizens' votes, and he has on many occasions sought engagement with members of ESDs 2 and 17 to remedy the dispute between the entities to no conclusion.
Pena also characterized efforts by members of ESDs 2 and 17 to encourage voters to approve the annexation of Pflugerville and its ETJ and cast doubt on the efficacy of private ambulance service providers as a "fear, uncertainty and doubt campaign."
Council has always acted in the best interest of Pflugerville citizens, he said.
"That is what we will continue to do, despite the actions of others who are clearly trying to take very assertive, aggressive actions against the city and the citizens," Pena said.