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City withdraws ambulance offer

Ruston intends to stop providing services outside the city effective June 1
Wednesday, February 2, 2022

The city of Ruston intends to stop providing ambulance and hazardous materials services outside the city limits effective June 1. Ruston officials have also told the Lincoln Parish Police Jury the city is withdrawing all offers to provide emergency service.

That means unless the city and parish can come to some new agreement, police jurors will have to find some other way to provide EMS and hazmat service outside of Ruston.

Ruston Mayor Ronny Walker and city fire Chief Chris Womack on Monday hand delivered a letter from Walker to parish officials outlining both the notice to terminate the existing service and withdrawing all previous offers to the parish.

The move came after the parish cancelled several scheduled meetings with city representatives about the situation.

Parish Administrator Doug Postel was unavailable for comment Tuesday morning.

The city had proposed upping its contract from $30,000 a year – an amount that hasn’t changed in 28 years - to $120,000 a year with a 5% annual increase after the first year.

The city says the cost of providing the service has increased multifold, and if it is to continue run parishwide, it needs more money.

“The increase in cost (of any contract) is necessary to hire additional staff and purchase additional vehicles and equipment for the Ruston Fire Department to ensure the residents of the city are protected when the city is providing emergency services in the parish,” Walker’s letter states.

“Despite those efforts, the police jury has rejected such offer. Accordingly, the city withdraws all offers previously made to provide emergency services. Further … the city hereby notifies the police jury that the city intends to terminate (the existing) agreement effective June 1, 2022.”

Though city officials said earlier this month there was no room for negotiation, Walker said Monday the reason for retracting all offers and preparing to vacate the existing contract is to get talks going again.

“Let’s clear the air. Let’s sit down and discuss it and come up with what works for both parties,” he said.

The city ambulance service is part of the Ruston Fire Department and is manned by firefighters who are cross-trained in EMS. In an earlier interview, Walker said Ruston has been supplementing the parish’s $30,000 by about $1 million a year.

Both he and Womack say at current staffing and equipment levels, making runs outside the city can strap RFD to the point that fire and EMS response for Ruston residents are jeopardized.

The parish has talked to at least two private EMS providers but details of any proposed contracts have not been made public.