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Preston City Council Report

Fri, Jun 23rd, 2006
Posted in Government

The controversy over the disposition of the aging ambulance was finally settled at the June 19, Preston City Council meeting. Over the last several months members of the Preston Area Ambulance Service have made clear their desire to donate the ambulance to an ambulance service in LaCombe, Louisiana. At least six area citizens felt strongly that the value of the ambulance should be determined and that the funds should stay in the area. The council had decided to offer the ambulance for sale through sealed bids.

The first attempt with the sealed bids failed to have a clear high bidder because of an apparent mistake. Stefanie Bestor representing the Ambulance Service reported that on Friday, June 16, four sealed bids were opened. The highest bid was offered by Doug Johnson in the amount of $2701.03. Bestor announced that the private citizens group had bid $2400. She stated that members of the Ambulance Service had voted to accept the $2400 bid.

Council member Robert Sauer expressed sympathy with the group’s wishes, but felt that it would not be ethical to deny the highest bid. Council member Steve Knoepke explained that it was hard for him to understand how members of the ambulance service could place the needs of the Louisiana Parish over the needs of our local citizens. He asked Bestor if the lower bid were to be accepted wouldn’t that be putting the priority down there (LaCombe, LA)? Bestor replied that right now the priority is down there.

City Attorney Steve Corson explained that the council had several options ranging from accepting the high bid to again rejecting all bids. He said that the normal reason for not accepting the highest bid would be that the bid came from a non-qualified bidder. He noted that there was not a justification for humanitarian reasons. Corson went on to explain that there was little legal jeopardy for the city if the council did accept a lower bid.

Knoepke insisted that the ‘credibility’ of the city would be damaged by not accepting the high bid. Corson tended to agree. Sauer agreed that it was important to honor the high bid.

Before the council made their decision, two citizens from the ambulance group expressed their opinions. Bestor and another member of the service had to leave on an emergency call. Edward Hallisy spoke in favor of awarding the ambulance to the highest bidder, even though he had contributed to the private citizens fund which intended to buy and donate the ambulance. He suggested that many of our local citizens live on a fixed income and that the service needs to keep their rates as low as possible. The money from the private fund is suppose to go into the equipment fund if not used to purchase the ambulance. He also highlighted the need for funds for the education of future EMT’s because state funds for that purpose are going to be reduced. Hallisy opined, “Someday our pot is going to be empty.” He said that the bottom line for the ambulance service is patient care and fiscal responsibility.

Ruth McGarvey spoke in favor of accepting the citizen group bid. She noted that a lot of the equipment is purchased with grant monies. She agreed that patient care is the ‘number one’ priority. McGarvey suggested that there was only a $300 difference. Early in the spring the ambulance service had voted unanimously to donate the ambulance. She stressed that “district 3” in Louisiana where they had planned to send the ambulance was among the poorest in the country. She admitted that at this time not all members of the service agreed, but that the majority still were in favor of the donation.

The council which only had a quorum of three voted to accept the highest bid putting an end to the controversy. Mayor Kurt Reicks and councilman Jon Haugan were absent.

Public Hearing

A public hearing for the sidewalk improvements for 2005 and 2006, and some removals for 2006 was held. Edward Hallisy who resides on Pleasant Street explained that he and his neighbor Robert Muller were concerned about the future of the trees along the sidewalk. Public Utilities Director Bill Cox explained that the sidewalk will be moved away from the trees enough to save the trees.

Marc Sather of the Jailhouse Inn on Houston Street NW was concerned about drainage if the sidewalk were sloped appropriately for a handicap ramp. He noted that the elevation of the sidewalk would have to be lowered. Cox said that property owners shouldn’t have any additional work to do after the sidewalks are replaced, including turf restoration. Sather was concerned about water running over the sidewalk causing winter icing problems or water pooling inside of the walk. Cox said that he, the contractor and Sather would again look at the area.

The council received one letter from a woman claiming financial hardship. She requested a longer pay out period. Knoepke asked City Administrator Joe Hoffman to look into the city’s policy.

Knoepke asked where the city’s portion of the cost would come from that is over budget. Cox explained that the $3,000 over budget would come from the street repair account. Knoepke noted the needs of some of the town streets. Members approved the plan with the stipulation that concerns of Mr. Sather would need to be looked at and satisfied.

Other Business

A resolution was approved by the council adopting the National Incident Management System (NIMS). Hoffman explained that all government units are required by the federal government to adopt this system which will be used in training first responders. He noted that if they failed to approve the resolution they would loose their eligibility to receive needed federal grants.

There will only be one city council meeting in July on the seventeenth because of the July 4 holiday weekend.

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