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PD to stop dispatching for Symons Ambulance?

December 2, 2013

Bishop Police Chief Chris Carter is asking the Bishop City Council to discontinue dispatch services with Symons Emergency Services. Carter said the PD has been providing ambulance dispatch services out-of-contract since July. Photo by Darcy Ellis

Local leaders are scheduled to meet next week to discuss the future of ambulance services in Bishop following a reported breakdown in negotiations between the Bishop Police Department and Symons Emergency Specialties.
Bishop Police Chief Chris Carter announced Friday that he will be asking the Bishop City Council at its Monday, Dec. 9 meeting to consider discontinuing providing dispatch service to Symons, effective Jan. 1.
Carter said that if the City Council approves his request, it does not mean that Symons will not provide ambulance services. “It only means that the Bishop Police Department will not be responsible for dispatching ambulances to where they are needed,” Carter said. “This responsibility will now fall back upon Symons and they will determine how best to accomplish this task.”
Phone calls to Symons Ambulance Service seeking comment and additional information were not returned as of press time Monday.
Carter had asked the City Council back in September – after several failed attempts to collect payment from Symons for services provided – that the city give Symons 60 days’ notice to terminate the contract for two reasons: failure to pay and unresponsiveness to collections attempts. The request got Symons’ attention and the ambulance service and city had been on track to negotiate a new contract.
The original contract between the PD and Symons, which was signed in July 2012 and expired in July 2013, ensured that the Police Department would dispatch Symons ambulances throughout the greater Bishop area 24 hours a day, seven days a week at a cost of $20,000 annually.
Since the contract expired this past summer, the Police Department has continued to provide dispatching of ambulances while city officials negotiated a new contract with Symons Emergency Specialties, which the city says is based out of San Bernardino.
According to Carter, during contract negotiations, Symons requested that the city reduce its charges, citing low reimbursement rates from Medicare and Medi-Cal and financial difficulties.
Chief Carter said he brought that request, along with other proposed changes to the contract, before the Bishop City Council in October. At that time the City Council was willing to consider the requested changes, but asked that Symons produce a financial statement verifying the need to reduce the amount the city charges for dispatch services.
Carter said that Symons has not responded to the city’s request.
“Additionally, Symons owes the city approximately $13,000 and has not remitted payment for services to the City of Bishop since February of 2013, despite repeated requests that they attempt to bring their account into balance,” Carter said in a press release.
When the contract was originally constructed in 2012, a representative of Symons met with Carter and City Administrator Keith Caldwell and found that the terms and conditions were reasonable and fair and thereafter agreed to by all parties, Carter’s press release states. “While the City of Bishop recognizes and appreciates the valuable service to the public that Symons provides, we cannot ignore the fact that Symons is a private, for-profit business. As such, they are not entitled to have their operation funded with taxpayer monies.”
Carter went on to point out that even where one government agency is providing similar service to another, the costs for those services must be covered. He explained that, currently, the Town of Mammoth Lakes Police Department contracts with Mono County for law enforcement dispatching services. The Town of Mammoth Lakes is contractually obligated to pay Mono County for the service.
“Carter and the City of Bishop have gone to extraordinary measures in attempts to work with Symons in order to settle the matter and continue to assist Symons in providing service to our citizens,” the press release states. “Unfortunately, it appears that an agreement will not be forthcoming.”

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