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Decatur could resolve ambulance dilemma in May

By Chris Paschenko 340-2442

Decatur's ambulance dilemma, and the legal questions involved in the city possibly replacing its current service, could be resolved next month.

Decatur City Attorney Herman Marks said Monday that a new ambulance contract (a request for proposal) could satisfy the city's legal review and be ready for placement on the City Council's agenda as early as May 7.

Council President Billy Jackson said he would schedule a work session before the council votes.

In November, a seven-member panel appointed by the city's Emergency Medical Services Committee recommended that Decatur replace its current service, Decatur Emergency Medical Services, with Care Ambulance of Alabama.

Barney Lovelace, attorney for Decatur EMS, said last week that the current ambulance contract implemented in 1998 conflicts with the request for proposal because the contract allows for the licensing of more than one ambulance service.

That contract, however, allows Decatur EMS to operate as the only licensed ambulance service in the city and it's three-mile police jurisdiction because it requires new services to first obtain a certificate of need.

The EMS Committee has since said the city can't financially support more than one service, and the council concurred. So, the city hasn't approved new certificates.

Contract conditions

The current contract allows the city to revoke, alter or suspend any certificate or permit for a number of reasons, including whether the "public convenience and necessity no longer warrant such operation."

Decatur EMS, according to the current contract, is operating without a certificate of need because a grandfather clause exempts it.

The EMS Committee and council have rejected requests by other ambulance companies seeking to do business in Decatur.

David Childers, owner of Med-Call ambulance service, sued the city when it refused to permit his service, but Decatur countered, saying Childers violated a court order when he picked up one of his former Decatur dialysis patients in January 2006 and took her to the hospital.

Morgan County Circuit Court Judge Steven Haddock in March dismissed Childers' lawsuit and found him in contempt of court.

Childers said he would pay the court-ordered $4,843 fine to the city by April 20 in order to avoid possible jail time.

"I had a paratransit license, but the city didn't renew it," Childers said.

"The only reason I'll pay it is for the simple reason that my attorney told me that Judge Haddock was going to throw me in jail. It didn't matter that I was (transporting her) for a good reason because of the contempt of court action."

Haddock's order also prevents Childers from future transports that originate within the city or its police jurisdiction.

Childers reapplied earlier this month for a transport certificate in Decatur even though he didn't submit a request to be one of the six companies that competed under the new, but not yet adopted, contract.

The council took more than a year to deny his most recently rejected request, even though the current contract calls for a recommendation and public hearing on the matter within 60 days.

The council must decide whether to follow the panel's recommendation for Care Ambulance to become the sole provider or whether Care shares calls with Decatur EMS.

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