Gilbert Town Council approves ambulance purchases, starting expansion push

Gilbert Fire Department
Medic 253 is the first ambulance put in service by the Gilbert Fire & Rescue Department. (Courtesy Gilbert Fire & Rescue Department)

Medic 253 is the first ambulance put in service by the Gilbert Fire & Rescue Department. (Courtesy Gilbert Fire & Rescue Department)

Gilbert Town Council approved the purchase of six ambulances and six ambulance stretchers and power cots Aug. 25, starting the town on a path to taking over service throughout town.

At the same time, council unanimously approved a two-year contract renewal with American Medical Response, the town's private ambulance service provider, to continue service while the town works toward the expansion in the coming months. The town operates one ambulance in town now.

Council voted 5-2 for the purchases with council members Jared Taylor and Aimee Yentes voting in dissent.

Yentes twice proposed continuing consideration of purchases, but the proposals failed both times, once on a 4-3 vote with new Council Member Kathy Tilque joining Yentes and Taylor in the vote on delaying a decision on the ambulances purchase. Yentes and Taylor also voted for continuing consideration on the stretchers, which failed 5-2.

The ambulances will cost nearly $1.4 million to Professional Sales and Service, while the stretchers and cots will cost $252,528.31 to Stryker Medical.

The expansion has been an issue since it was included in the budget package for fiscal year 2020-21 and through the election as to whether it was important service to protect residents or an unnecessary expansion of government into private enterprise.

At the Aug. 25 council meeting, Gilbert Fire and Rescue Department Chief Jim Jobusch, Assistant Chief Bob Badgett and Ambulance Service Manager Tiffany Fields gave a panel presentation about the town’s difficulties in dealing with AMR and unhappiness with parts of its service as well as results of a resident survey.

Taylor invited AMR representatives, including Glenn Kaspryzk, AMR’s chief operating officer for Arizona and New Mexico, to speak in the company’s defense and answer questions from council.

Kaspryzk said the company remained open to discussing changes and improvements in service, and Taylor questioned whether there was enough data to judge how the town would perform in place of AMR.

But Council Member Scott September questioned whether AMR, as nearly a monopoly in the area, was truly a free market solution, and Council Member Bill Spence said Gilbert’s contract with AMR contrasted with its certificate of necessity from Arizona Department of Health Services to operate in Maricopa County.

Spence said the town could get no actionable relief on AMR missing contract benchmarks on response times since it had no enforceable standard of service from the company.

Scott Anderson, in his first council meeting as mayor, said he believed the town’s data showed AMR had betrayed the public trust in regard to response times that the council had bestowed upon it.

The town’s certificate of necessity, or CON, was another point of discussion. Gilbert got its own CON—which allows a company or government entity to operate a regulated ambulance service in a defined area—to protect its residents having ambulance service after Rural Metro went into bankruptcy in 2013, leaving Gilbert and other municipalities vulnerable.

Gilbert’s CON is up for renewal in February, and town officials said Department of Health Services told them their CON was at risk if it did not further operationalize by expanding its own service rather than subcontracting most of the service to AMR.

Taylor said he had a conversation with DHS that said getting a three-year renewal was just a matter of filling out an application and paying a $50 fee because Gilbert’s CON was in good standing.

Town officials indicated that was just the application process and that the application would initiate a thorough review process without a certain outcome if Gilbert continued to subcontract service to AMR.

In other business:

  • Council voted to indemnify Spence and Town Clerk Lisa Maxwell for attorneys' fees and costs associated with Town Council Member-elect Laurin Hendrix’s lawsuit to immediately replace Spence after winning election this month. Council Member Jared Taylor suggested the town develop a general policy for indemnification in cases like this, rather than considering them one by one. Town Attorney Chris Payne agreed that such a process could be helpful.

  • Council approved changing a requirement on setbacks for pickleball and tennis courts at Trilogy at Power Ranch, an age 55-plus community. The courts’ location and design has been an issue for four years. The required setbacks from the street were reduced from 25 feet to 10 feet.

  • Council approved in the consent agenda a change of contract with The Strand @ Gilbert, a water park to be constructed at Gilbert Regional Park. The changes include a six-month delay in opening, which now has a deadline of Aug. 21, 2022.

By Tom Blodgett
Raised in Arizona, Tom Blodgett has spent 30 years in journalism in Arizona and is the editor of the Gilbert edition of Community Impact Newspaper. He is a graduate of Arizona State University, where he now serves as an instructional professional in the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication and editorial adviser to The State Press, the university's independent student media outlet.


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