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Tenn. officials sour on county; Ambulance deal delay clogs city budget deliberations

COLLIERVILLE, Tenn. Some Collierville officials are growing antsy waiting for the county to finish negotiating an ambulance contract.

"The county will drag it out to the end," Alderman Buddy Rowe warned during a work-session discussion this week.

Coming up on its budget-setting deadline, the town does not know whether to budget $418,000 to participate in a Shelby County contract with Rural/Metro, under $400,000 to partner only with Germantown in contracting with another firm, Professional Medical Transport, or $554,000 to go it alone with Professional Medical.

"You're no more frustrated with this thing than I am," Fire Chief Jerry Crawford told aldermen.

Town officials would prefer to join the county contract. But county administrators were still trying to conclude negotiations this week with Rural/Metro.

The contract would pay about $2.8 million a year to the ambulance firm. Collierville's share, as of Tuesday, would be $418,000.

The town now pays $116,000 for its share of the existing county contract with Rural/Metro. But the new plan promises much improved response times by doubling the number of ambulances.

Germantown officials have said they intend to participate in the county contract.

Rowe suggested the Collierville administration budget $550,000 so Collierville can contract with Professional Medical Transport.

"I just don't see any end to it," he said of the county's negotiations.

"We'll definitely make sure we got enough money," Lewellen responded.

But Mayor Linda Kerley cautioned against rushing a decision.

"I want to give the county every opportunity" to negotiate the best contract, she said.

If the town decided to go it alone in contracting with Professional Medical Transport, the proposed contract should be renegotiated, Lewellen said.

Pro Med Transport's $554,000 bid provides two ambulances and one in reserve.

"We'd need another ambulance," Lewellen said.

The county contract with Rural/Metro would provide 12 ambulances across the county, with four more during peak hours.

Five of those ambulances would be headquartered in the south part of the county, two in the middle and five in the north.

Crawford has described the new county contract as a "huge" improvement over the existing one.

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