Still 1 ambulance provider
Decatur EMS keeps monopoly; council doesn't vote on license requests
By Evan Belanger
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Two ambulance companies vying to attain licenses allowing them to operate inside the Decatur city limits got little leeway from the City Council on Monday.
After hosting two public hearings to consider granting local licenses to Montgomery-based Care Ambulance and Decatur-based Med-Call Ambulance, the council let both matters die without a vote. The action means the city's current ambulance provider, Decatur Emergency Medical Services, will maintain its monopoly on all in-city emergency calls.
During the meeting, District 5 City Councilman Ray Metzger made the only motions concerning the license requests, moving first to grant a license to Care Ambulance and then to table consideration of the Med-Call application. Neither motion was seconded.
After the meeting, District 4 Councilman Ronny Russell said he would have seconded the motion for Care Ambulance, but learned of some disclosure problems on the company's application that prevented him from doing so.
"Nobody wanted to approve this more than me," he said.
Care Ambulance did not send a representative to Monday's meeting.
While David Childers, owner of Med-Call, did attend the meeting, the validity of his application was questioned by Mayor Don Kyle.
A former accountant, Kyle said balance sheets provided by Med-Call lacked several important pieces of information that should have been considered standard.
"You can't tell anything from this," he said.
Kyle also said he called the accountant listed on the form, and she told him she had never heard of Med-Call or Childers.
Childers responded that the audit was conducted through a third-party accounting firm, which may have caused the problem.
After the meeting, he said he was disappointed with the outcome and would let his attorneys handle any further dealing with the application process.
"It's an atrocious day when you have a city government that supports a monopoly," Childers said. "And it's so pitiful when we have a mayor that tries to chastise someone for trying to do business in Decatur and make his city safer."
With both applications rejected, the Decatur EMS monopoly on in-city emergency calls appears safe.
Established in 1995, Decatur EMS came under fire about two years ago, when the city's Emergency Management Services Committee began requesting proposals from several competing ambulance services.
Of the six proposals received, an EMS Committee sub-panel ranked Decatur EMS last. Despite the rankings, Decatur EMS was kept on as the city's only ambulance provider after concerns about the legality of the search process were raised.
For the past several years, the city has granted only one local license in an effort to ensure the local ambulance company stays financially stable enough to continue without funding from the city.
In June, the EMS committee formally reaffirmed its position that Decatur has only enough business for one ambulance service.
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