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AMR protests new city ambulance negotiations

Objection overruled


AMR isn’t the city’s preference for a new contract. - SHUTTERSTOCK.COM
  • AMR isn’t the city’s preference for a new contract.
A city committee recently recommended choosing Priority Ambulance to replace the city’s longtime ambulance provider, American Medical Response (AMR). But AMR is crying foul, alleging in March protest letters that, among other problems, a member of the committee that selected Priority had a conflict of interest. The city has answered that protest by saying none of the four reasons listed by AMR hold water, and negotiations with Priority will continue.

At issue is a multi-year contract to provide ambulance service in response to 911 calls in the city. The five-year contract with AMR of Greenwood Village, which expires at year’s end, was the first in the region in which an emergency ambulance provider was required to pay the city — $1.17 million a year.

The new contract will require a $1.4-million annual payment, and Priority is the preferred contractor. That’s despite the fact that the Knoxville, Tennessee-based company is led by two officials who, the Gazette has reported, served in top jobs at three companies that went bankrupt, leaving dozens of cities without ambulance service and thousands without jobs, and forcing local governments to shell out millions of dollars. Asked to comment, Priority spokesperson Amanda Shell Jennings says the company is “well-equipped and prepared to serve the city of Colorado Springs.” She adds, “We have a flawless record of compliance across the country.”

AMR, or one of its previous iterations, has provided emergency service in El Paso County for some 40 years. It used to serve the city through a contract with the county’s multi-agency Emergency Services Agency (ESA), but then-Mayor Steve Bach pulled the city out of that agreement in 2013 and contracted separately with AMR in 2014 under a five-year deal. AMR continues to serve ESA, which no longer includes the city.

On March 2, AMR protested the city’s choice of Priority, but the city argued it has not yet awarded the contract and won’t officially do so until terms are negotiated and finalized with Priority. Meantime, the city won’t release anything substantive from the proposal submitted by Priority, a move AMR alleges violates the Colorado Open Records Act.

AMR’s protest was based, in part, on an allegation of a conflict of interest on the part of a city employee. That employee, they say, was part of the evaluation committee that selected Priority, but is also a “former AMR employee who left on bad terms and worked for the Priority company and [now] is in a position of influence [at the city],” AMR Regional CEO Jeffrey McCollom tells the Independent. (Jennings says the employee worked for a company later purchased by Priority but never worked directly for Priority.)

In response, an April 9 city letter states, “The City is not aware of any positions or processes that would constitute conflict of interest by any member of the evaluation committee.”

AMR was also concerned by the city’s apparent failure to conduct robust due diligence on Priority’s track record, stating that “a comparison of the organizational history, financial stability, references, qualifications and experience, and past performance of the bidders would have disqualified the City’s proposed contractor from receiving the award.”

The city countered saying it followed procedures for scoring proposals and that the protest, “exhausts AMR’s administrative remedies.”

McCollom tells the Indy that after the contract is awarded and signed, another protest period opens. AMR likely will protest the award. If that fails, AMR could pursue the matter in District Court, though McCollom says, “We’re typically not the kind of company that seeks a legal remedy in these situations.”

McCollom says AMR hopes that through the discovery process of finalizing contract terms the city will reach the right outcome.

He adds that AMR doubts the contract is financially sustainable, especially given the large city payout. “The way the system was being redesigned, the RFP itself would end up yielding a no-value contract or a financial loser,” he says.

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