MUSCLE SHOALS — It’s been three months since Muscle Shoals officials first said they intend to solicit bids for ambulance service in the city, but bid specifications are still not ready.
Muscle Shoals Mayor David Bradford confirmed officials still plan to select an ambulance service provider through a bid, but said collecting information for the bid packages is time consuming.
“This is not a standard service for us to bid,” Bradford said. “It requires some research. We will be looking at quality and quantity of equipment, not just cost.”
City purchasing agent Lisa Ricks has sought examples of ambulance service bids from other municipalities, and Bradford said he hopes the ambulance bid will be a focus “soon after the first of the year.”
Bradford said finding information from other municipalities has proved difficult.
“From what we’ve found, most 911 (boards) are not requiring bids,” he said. “They normally act on requests.”
The city decided to solicit bids for the service after several months of back and forth with the Colbert County E-911 board about which entity has the power to name an ambulance service provider in the Muscle Shoals city limits.
For many years the city has used Keller EMS, which is owned by Helen Keller Hospital in Sheffield. In March 2012, Muscle Shoals-based Shoals Ambulance Service entered the picture. When the city passed a resolution to switch service providers from Keller EMS to Shoals Ambulance in April, the E-911 board said it would not dispatch the private service provider.
Both sides requested an opinion from the Alabama attorney general, which mostly sided with the city’s power to name a service provider. But the last line of the opinion’s conclusion states that if the city wishes to name an “exclusive provider” it has to do so in compliance with the state’s competitive bid law.
Shoals Ambulance owner Bryan Gibson stated he is not seeking to be an exclusive provider and therefore no bid is needed, but city officials have elected to satisfy that caveat as well.
Gibson, who has been running his ambulance service since the spring without answering emergency calls, said earlier he is committed to the area and hopeful the city will move forward soon.
“I am a small business guy,” he said. “I don’t have a lot, but I have the means to see this through.”
He said in October it is costing him between $15,000 and $20,000 each month to run Shoals Ambulance Service.
Shoals Ambulance and Keller EMS are not the only two providers in the mix. In November, the Muscle Shoals City Council granted a business license to First Response Ambulance.
The business license grants First Response power to operate a general transport ambulance service, not emergency response, but Jason Tindal, of First Response Ambulance, told the council he intended to bid on the emergency response contract when the bid package was complete.
Jennifer Edwards can be reached at 256-740-5754 or jennifer.edwards@TimesDaily.com.