TX City May Negotiate with Acadian Before Voters Given Other Option

The photo shows a red ambulance with its side door open, showing the blue Star of Life.
File Photo

Claire Osborn

Austin American-Statesman

(MCT)

Pflugerville City Council members may approve entering into negotiations for a contract with a private ambulance company on Saturday before voters next week are given a different choice.

Voters on Nov. 2 are being asked to approve paying taxes to become part of Emergency Services District No. 17, which would provide ambulances for Pflugerville and its extraterritorial jurisdiction.

The city has the option of withdrawing from negotiations with Acadian Ambulance Services if voters decide they want ambulances to be provided instead by ESD No. 17, said Council Member Rudy Metayer, who is a lawyer.

“However this vote goes, it will be used as further information in the city’s decision as to what to do with this regarding EMS services,” he said. “The council is looking at a private entity to bridge toward a public solution including providing EMS services on its own.”

The City Council will have a special meeting at noon on Saturday to consider entering negotiations with Acadian at City Hall, 100 E. Main St.. Suite 500. People can also watch the meeting online at pflugervilletx.gov/pftv or on Suddenlink’s Channel 17.

“Saturday’s meeting is scheduled so that council can direct the city manager to enter into negotiations with Acadia,” Council Member Ceasar Ruiz said on Wednesday.

Ambulance services are now provided by ESD No. 2, also known as the Pflugerville Fire Department, but those services are scheduled to stop at the end of the year because the district has said it cannot afford to keep providing them due to increased call volume.

Becoming part of ESD No. 17 would cost Pflugerville residents up to an additional 10 cents per $100 valuation on top of the taxes they already pay for fire protection to ESD No. 2.

READ: Pflugerville authorizes contract talks with private ambulance provider for EMS services

If the city approved a private contract with Arcadian Ambulances, taxes would not be increased for residents.

Pflugerville Fire Chief Nick Perkins said at a Tuesday City Council meeting that Acadian Ambulance would charge residents 30% to 40% more for their services than residents currently pay.

Residents pay $1,011 to $1,076 to be taken by ambulance to the hospital, while Acadian would charge $1,321 to $1,804 per transport, according to figures from the Pflugerville Fire Department.

Residents also currently pay $13.50 per mile for an ambulance trip while Acadian would charge $26.48 per mile, according to the figures.

Perkins also said Acadian had failed to meet its promised response times for ambulances in other areas that the company serves, including Bastrop County.

The Bastrop Advertiser reported that during January 2020, Acadian failed 83% of the time to meet its promised response times in Bastrop County, including a call in the city of Bastrop that took 47 minutes for the ambulance to arrive on scene.

Rusty Wood, the operations director for Acadian, said at the Tuesday council meeting that the company divided Bastrop County into 10 different service zones. He said the company was in compliance with its promised response times 90% of the time in January 2020.

The Advertiser story did not measure overall compliance but instead took measurements from individual zones, he said.

READ: Acadian records highest response-time violations in January in Bastrop County

If the Pflugerville City Council decides to approve a contract with Acadian then the company would start with four ambulances in the city, Wood said. The proposed contract also includes an 8-minute promised response time.

The City Council has previously tried to prevent voters from considering whether they wanted to become part of ESD No. 17.

The push for a new emergency services district started in September 2020 when the Pflugerville Professional Firefighters Association created a petition that received nearly 5,000 signatures.

The City Council voted in February to keep the item off the May ballot for its residents, saying it wanted to explore other options.

Voters in parts of northeastern Travis County approved the creation of ESD No. 17 in May to cover parts of the extraterritorial jurisdictions of Austin, Manor and Taylor.

The commissioners of the newly created ESD No. 17 decided during the summer to put the issue of whether to join the newly created district on the November ballot for Pflugerville voters.

The Texas Health and Safety Code allows the district to call for an election without permission of the Pflugerville City Council, an attorney who represents ESD No. 17 has said.

The city of Pflugerville sued ESD No. 17 in August, saying the emergency services district was trying to disrupt its authority. A judge ruled against the city so the lawsuit is now pending appeal, said Metayer.

“I don’t think it should have gotten to this point,” he said. “I think both sides should have worked together to find a viable solution. I still hope in the end that can still happen.”

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