By John Mullen

September 27, 2018 – Orange Beach, AL (OBA®) – The City of Orange Beach is taking preliminary steps to run its own ambulance service for transporting patients from the city.
 
“The foundation, what’s it going to take, how much will it cost and how do we move forward,” Fire Chief Justin Pearce said. “Right now, we’re in the how do we move forward stage.”
 
At the Sept. 18 council meeting the effort got a boost in a memo from Financial Director Ford Handley and the city’s Finance Committee.
 
“The Finance Committee is recommending that the council approve the proposal put forth by Chief Pearce regarding the two ambulance requests,” Handley’s memo stated. “We will have a revenue stream that will cover the personnel costs related to the program.”
 
The total cost is expected to be about $850,000 to buy and fully equip two new ambulances. But Pearce cautioned it will be many months down the road before those new ambulances are on the streets of Orange Beach.
Fire Chief Justin Pearce
“This is a big process,” Pearce said. “It’s just not something we can do overnight. We’re investigating the number of units, the number of personnel, billing. There’s a lot of moving pieces to this. We’re just in the first stages of this right now. We’re in the information gathering and the proposal gathering stage of it.”
 
Once the decision is made to move forward there’s a long wait time to have the units built.
 
“It’s just like a firetruck and it takes 170 to 210 days to build an ambulance,” Pearce said. “Even if we placed an order today for ambulances it would take a significant amount of time. We have to hire additional personnel and train them. Hopefully, we’ll start moving in the direction of being able to do some implementation in the next couple of months.”
 
Pearce said a change in ownership of MedStar has caused changes in response times when an ambulance is needed. It was recently bought out by a company called Lifeguard.
 
“Since that transition has happened we’ve noticed a decreased level of service and so we started kind of keeping track of response times, the number of times that our transport was placed on standby,” Pearce said. “Ultimately, there have been several times where we had to transport patients in the city’s transport unit.”
 
Efforts to correct the problems, Pearce said, have been unsuccessful.
 
“We met with them on several occasions and tried to come up with solutions and ways to help them meet their demands,” Pearce said. “It’s just come down to they have been unable to meet the requirements and our firefighters, our citizens and our visitors are the ones ultimately suffering. I don’t think that’s a position the City of Orange Beach wants to place their citizens or their guests in.”
 
Similar problems arose around 2000, Pearce said, when a company called Rural Metro bought out MedStar and the city also studied forming its own ambulance service.
 
“At that time the city was making preparations to do exactly what we’re doing now,” he said. “We purchased a transport in 2000 and were taking steps to get into the transport business. Rural Metro actually sold MedStar back to the original owner and once that happened the level of service increased and there was no need for us to continue down that path.”
 
In other business, the council:

• Passed a resolution awarding the bid for equipment and installation of a fire break force main at the wastewater treatment plant to Hughes Plumbing & Utility in the amount of $484,000.
 
• Passed a resolution awarding the bid for 2018 roadway resurfacing project to Roads, Inc. of NWF in an amount not to exceed $380,000.
 
• Passed a resolution awarding the bid for Sportsplex ball field Improvements Phase II to Net Connection, LLC, in an amount not to exceed $230,000.
 
• Set a public hearing date of Oct. 16 to discuss amending the zoning ordinance concerning roof and window signs.
 
• Set a public hearing date of Oct. 16 to discuss a planned unit development for Meeting Square subdivision in the Village of Tannin.
 
• Set a date for a public hearing and first reading Oct. 2 of a setback variance in Windward Lakes subdivision on lot 1 of the Mariner Lakes PUD.
 
• Set a date for a public hearing on Oct. 2 on the revocation of the business license for Pleasure Island Property Management concerning failure to pay lodging taxes.