YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Youngstown officials are frustrated after American Medical Response (AMR) ambulance service is asking for more money to keep its services in Youngstown.

Just a few months ago, AMR was asking for a $750,000 subsidy to make up for Medicaid and Medicare reimbursements. But now AMR has more than doubled that number, asking for $1.8 million, with one less ambulance than before.

This comes with just 31 days before the current contract expires, leaving the city of Youngstown without an ambulance service if an agreement can’t be made.

The third meeting of a three-part town hall series was held Wednesday night when residents could ask questions. Elected officials, firefighters and community members were there.

Youngstown Mayor Jamael “Tito” Brown spoke to the crowd, not holding back his thoughts on the matter. He said he’s bit his tongue before but now he feels that AMR is being unreasonable.

“There’s reasonable and then there’s unreasonable, I think what they’re asking now is unreasonable and now they’re saying, ‘Well, you either take it or leave it,’ now you’re holding the citizens that I work for in the city hostage, and I don’t like it. But at the end of the day we [have to] put safety of this community first, whether the mayor likes the deal or not, I want to put the citizens of Youngstown first,” Brown said.

First Ward City Councilman Julius Oliver sent a statement on the issue, saying, “AMR is trying to extort the city under threat. They want a $1.8 million subsidy, which is more for less service by taking away one of our ambulances,” Oliver said.

AMR says for $1.8 million, it will provide three ambulances instead of its current four. It will continue to provide all four ambulances but says it wants a $2.6 million subsidy to do so.

“What it comes down to is your life has become a business transaction. That’s what it is, your life is no longer valued, it’s a business transaction,” said Youngstown Chief of Staff Nikki Posterli.

Oliver suggested purchasing ambulances from companies that are shutting down and says the city should begin its own ambulance service. Mayor Brown said he is open to exploring all options, but he doesn’t want to sacrifice other necessary services such as fire trucks.

Mayor Brown also said he’d be willing to negotiate with the fire union in order to utilize the 17 paramedics and 27 EMTS currently working in the Youngstown Fire Department.

The couple dozen people at the meeting also heard from Amanda Lencyk, a trauma outreach coordinator from Mercy Health. She was asked what trauma response times would look like if AMR pulled out of the city.

“If you’re relying on a service that is not stationed in your city, I would say that your trauma response time would significantly increase, and as far as trauma care and everything we’ve learned… EMS is a critical component with a timely response to improve trauma patient care… So, what that looks like, I hope we don’t have to find out,” she said.

Posterli mentioned that the city has reached out to other elected officials such as state representatives, congressmen and senators for help.

AMR was invited to all three town hall meetings but did not attend any. First News has reached out to AMR for a response to Wednesday’s meeting and for comment on AMR’s request for more money from the city. As of Wednesday night, we have not heard back.