YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – The Youngstown Safety Committee met Thursday to discuss several topics, including the recent announcement from AMR to pull out of the city.
Safety committee chairwoman Anita Davis along with vice chair Jimmy Hughes led the meeting.
On September 14, American Medical Response (AMR) announced it would not renew a contract with the city after the current one ends in December. It was because the city voted down a $625,000 subsidy the company asked for.
Thursday, the safety committee discussed options moving forward.
Youngstown Mayor Tito Brown said the city was always willing to negotiate with AMR and says the law department has begun working on RFPs (request for proposal) from other companies interested in servicing Youngstown.
Law Director Jeff Limbian said the city won’t be negotiating with AMR until the RFP blackout period is over on October 10.
“When that period is concluded, we will look at all those proposals, or if there are no other proposals, then we will reassess and reengage, if that’s a possibility, with AMR,” Limbian said.
Councilman Jimmy Hughes made the point that prior to the city receiving ARP money, the contract in place was “satisfying to us all.”
Kyle Miasek, finance director, explained that if the city were to use ARP funds to pay AMR the subsidy they want, it would be sustainable until the year 2026. If the money were to be taken out of the general fund instead, the city would have to divert resources from other areas in need.
“That would mean diverting those resources away from potential projects that the administration and council may like to prioritize. Eventually, though, those monies would dry up and it would become a burden on the city’s operating budget,” he said.
The question was asked whether or not other cities are being asked to provide funding for these types of services from profitable companies such as AMR, and Fire Chief Barry Finley said they are.
“It’s starting to become a problem all over the country for the same exact reasons that it’s happening here. It comes down to the federal government and what they’re reimbursing is just not enough,” he said.
Finley stated that some other communities, such as Canfield and Poland, have purchased ambulances to service their own communities. The question was asked whether or not that would be beneficial for the city of Youngstown to do.
“It’s not sustainable. We could start it, but roughly around 8 – 10 years the system, if the federal government doesn’t change, the system will begin to lose money,” Finley said.
Hughes feels that if the city pays AMR a subsidy, it won’t go away, and it will be an ongoing cost. He questioned which would be more cost-efficient, starting an EMS or paying the subsidy.
“It’s gonna cost us either way, you know. If we get a cost-benefit analysis of what our investment would be, over the course of the years, it’s gonna cost way more for us to start it up than it is to pay them the $600,000 or so, or somebody’s subsidy for a while,” said Councilman Mike Ray.
Davis also pointed out she doesn’t feel there would be enough time to start up an EMS between now and when AMR’s contract ends in December.
For now, the city will continue to look for RFPs through the blackout period and move forward from there.