After a period of no communication about an account in arrears, the Bishop Police Department and Symons Emergency Specialties are currently in negotiations with the hopes of renewing the contract for the benefit of both entities and the community at large.
Since July 1, 2012, BPD has contracted with Symons to provide emergency dispatch services on a per-call fee basis for the ambulance company in the Bishop area, Bishop Police Chief Chris Carter said at the Sept. 9 City Council meeting. This July, when the contract expired, Symons was thousands of dollars in arrears and unresponsive to the PD’s efforts to collect payment.
Carter asked the City Council to approve a request to give Symons 60 days notice to terminate the contract for two reasons: failure to pay and unresponsiveness to collections attempts. At the original contract signing, both Bishop PD and Symons agreed that “the terms of the contract are more than reasonable” at $20,000 annually for “24/7” service.
Councilmember David Stottlemyre said Sept. 9 that the fact that no Symons representative was present “shows their lack” of responsiveness. City Attorney Peter Tracy said that 60 days notice would give Symons enough time to settle the account and give Symons and the city a chance to make the transition to a new dispatch service.
Carter said, “I have nothing but respect for Judd Symons, one of the most dedicated EMS personnel I’ve encountered” and although the contract is expired since July 2013, Bishop PD has continued to “dispatch in good faith.”
City Council approved Carter’s request. Accordingly, a Sept. 10, 2013 letter from Carter and Mayor Laura Smith to Symons owner Judd Symons was drafted. It states that as of Sept. 10, “your account with the City of Bishop is in arrears in an amount exceeding $8,000. Despite repeated correspondence and requests for payment you have failed to contact us or take any action.”
The 60-day notice letter states that the PD will no longer provide dispatch services to Symons as of Nov. 11 and requests that Symons provide Bishop PD with a telephone number to which 911 calls and requests for ambulance service can be forwarded, “in the interest of public safety.”
Symons responded and on Sept. 11, Carter said “the city has been corresponding with Symons representatives and efforts are currently under way to negotiate a renewal of the contract.” Any contract renewal proposals will be submitted to City Council for approval and “we will keep the public informed on this important issue as more information becomes available,” he added.
On Sept. 19, a Symons representative confirmed that negotiations are ongoing and that owner Symons had no further comment.
The city and Bishop PD recognize “the importance of ambulance service to the citizens of Bishop and are making every effort to reach an agreement so that this valuable service can continue,” Carter said.