Commissioners accepting bids for EMS, 911 services

By Randa Wagner

March 18, 2014

This Spring’s bid process for EMS and 911 services in Morrow County is undergoing a change and the county commissioners are exploring options not pursued in previous years.

Bids are being accepted February 24 through April 9, 2014 for operating and managing the county’s current emergency medical services and dispatching, and the commissioners are broadening their search for candidates.

Morrow County Commissioners have developed a bid document with requirements based on National Benchmarks Standards in EMS and 911 dispatching. The commissioners are seeking to have more oversight of the tax money and operations than in the past and will require an annual audit of all funds past, present and future from an outside independent auditor.

“Since 1972, the Morrow County Firefighters and Squadsmens Association has always been the successful bidder,” said Commissioner Dick Miller. “It has never been a specific dollar amount that was bid - it was whatever the 2 mill levy produced. We have no idea of what the cost of providing the service should be to the county. So when we asked for request for proposals, we’re advertising it broadly and looking at the market to see what’s out there and how much it should cost. We’re getting indications from the EMS that they need more money and need the levy increased. We have no firm base to know what it should cost, so we’ve asked for proposals.”

Miller said the commissioners have the right to reject any proposals, but it ‘seems like wise, administrative decision’ to look into what the services cost.

Information released in February indicates there will also be an advisory committee established, made up of community members to ensure performance established by the commissioners to provide transparency, better working relationships and oversight of EMS and 911. The committee, EMS and 911 director will report back to the commissioners on a regular basis, the document states. Bidders will also be required to maintain current EMS and 911 personnel and provide a competitive benefit package.

On Monday, two representatives from Community EMS, a Michigan-based company that has joint agreements with Ohio companies, met with commissioners for a pre-bid meeting, going over the RFP (Request for Proposals). On March 19, a similar meeting with LifeCare of Elyria will take place. Miller said Morrow County EMS sent a letter saying they would submit a proposal but had not requested a pre-bid meeting as of Monday, which ‘is what they need to do if they have questions.’

“It’s straightforward and it’s been widely advertised, as opposed to putting it in the local paper for one or two weeks and then awarding the bid to the same bidder every year for four years,” Miller said. “911 has always been given to the successful bidder for whatever the telephone and cellphone taxes bring in. That’s what they operate on. They have an increasing amount of money every year and we’ve heard from several adjoining counties, one of which may be interested in providing that service to us at a lesser cost.”

Whatever service is awarded the contract, they are under no obligation to use the current building housing the 911 center, Miller said. It does not meet the requirements of a 911 center because it is not ‘hardened’ with barriers and blocks and protection for the generator; it’s vulnerable to attack.

“In the RFP we’re asking for a realignment of where the squads are physically located based on the change in demographics in the county,” Miller explained, using the locations of new schools, growing communities, and the interstate as examples. “We’re looking to the market to solve the problem.”

Other companies may come forward before the deadline, and Miller said the proposal accepted will be based on the lowest and best bid that is most responsive to fit the county’s needs.

“We’re a growing county and have to get this stuff in place and protect the public,” Miller said. “That’s what this is all about. We’re looking for reliable partners who, when they make a contract with us, will live up to the responsibilities under the contract. On April 9 we will know what’s out there in the market and be able to compare it to what is going on now.”