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Panel seeks Pafford contract

Rescue figures, finance options still unclear
Saturday, August 6, 2022
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The parish Ambulance Service Committee has asked Pafford EMS to submit a detailed contract for providing ambulance coverage outside the city of Ruston effective Jan. 1.

The committee on Friday also took several steps to organize itself and divvy up its work. The action came six months after the committee’s formation and on the heels of public criticism that it had no chairman and nostructure.

The panel elected community representative Charles Edwards chairman and Lincoln Parish Police Juror Milton Melton vice chairman. Edwards is one of four jury appointees to what’s now a 12-member committee.

It also added Lincoln Parish Communications District member Mike Rainwater to the group. The communications district oversees the 911 dispatch system.

The committee also:

• Informally charged Rainwater and Village of Choudrant representative Bill Sanderson with investigating changes that will be needed to the 911 system when the Ruston Fire Department is no longer the primary parishwide EMS and rescue provider.

• Defeated a motion calling for creation of minimum standards for ambulance services and then seeking requests for proposals based on those standards.The committee is charged with making a recommendation to the Lincoln Parish Police Jury for ambulance and rescue service after the jury’s current contract with the Ruston Fire Department ends at midnight Dec. 31.

Only Pafford has given the committee a bid for ambulance service. On July 7, it proposed a five-year contract for $360,000 annually and said it would also make a $50,000 donation to the parish fire district for rescue equipment.

The committee has not acted on the proposal, but it now appears to want Pafford to bring a new one — or tweak the one already on the table.

“Sam, how close are y’all to having a contract ready to propose to us?” Edwards asked Sam Liggin, Pafford’s Louisiana operations director.

“I’ll have something for you to look at within a week,” Liggin said.

Liggin said after the meeting he doesn’t expect much change in the contract price. However, he told the committee he would give it options on length of the contract, possibly down to one year.

Jason Cole, who lives south of Simsboro and works for Acadian Ambulance Services, said the parish needs written standards for EMS that address staffing on an ambulance, minimum equipment, and response times.

“One of the things that most concerns me is when I have looked for an ordinance for the parish that states minimum standards, I haven’t been able to find any. When I’ve asked about it, I’ve been told there’s not one,” Cole said.

“I would encourage you first and foremost, if we want the best EMS service in the parish, we need a set of rules,” he said.

But when Sanderson proposed the committee do that, it baulked. The committee nixed his recommendation on what Edwards first called a 4-5 vote.

Of the 11 members present, Dubach Mayor Mona Wilson abstained, but didn’t say so until after the vote. Those favoring the motion were Sanderson, Rainwater, police juror Annette Straughter and Health Hut representative Dr. Jackie White.

When asked later to clarify the vote, Edwards said the tally was 4-6.

Aillet said he opposed the motion because there isn’t enough time to send out requests for proposals.

“We’ve got precious little to time to pull together an entire ambulance and rescue district,” he said. “We’ve got five months to work with this, and that’s a woefully small amount of time.”

The fire district has claimed since May it is willing to provide rescue but has yet to supply a quote.

“Why have we not been able to receive an estimate of costs?” police juror Logan Hunt asked.

Fire District Chief Kevin Reynolds said that’s because the district’s board can’t agree on a number.

Police jury president and committee member Richard Durrett, who also serves on the fire district board, said the board is waiting to see what EMS provider is selected before finalizing their figures.

In addition to the promised $50,000 from Pafford, Reynolds said the district may also receive training assistance if Pafford is chosen. That would impact the long-term budget and thus the district’s cost estimate.

The communications district also needs to know who the EMS provider will be before it can adjust its 911 dispatch system.

“Until we know who the provider is going to be, there’s nothing we can do,” Rainwater said after the meeting.

Regardless of the final EMS and rescue recommendations, the parish is seemingly no closer to finding a way to pay for them.

The committee has explored tacking a franchise fee onto residents’ electric bills. But Parish Administrator Doug Postel said neither he nor the state Public Service Commission has been able to find the right contact at Entergy to discuss that idea. Claiborne Electric Cooperative has already agreed to the plan.

The panel plans to meet again Aug. 15 and review Pafford’s updated proposal.

“We need to put this issue to bed as quick as we can,” Edwards said.