ESD4 investigates purchase of additional ambulances for operations revamp

The board of volunteers who oversee the local ambulance service in Devine and Natalia discusses buying two gently used EMS units as they prepare to take over operations locally. EMS service has been provided by a large private company for years (Allegiance EMS). Pictured are board members George Morales, Tony Martin, Viola Potter, Shelley Watson, and Juan Zamora. Coordinator of the ESD4 Christy Merendon and newly hired ESD4 Director Jason Miller is also pictured as well as Pat Bourcier, District Chief for Allegiance which currently serves the area.

By Anton Riecher
A letter of intent giving Medina County Emergency Services District No. 4 right of first refusal on two used ambulances due to be retired by a suburb community near Dallas was approved by the ESD4 board of commissioners at their July 2 regular session.
EMS Director Jason Miller said the opportunity comes at a time when finances for the district are extremely tight. The district recently approved the purchase of two new ambulances in preparation for taking over operations this fall currently provided by Allegiance Mobile Health.
However, the two “gently used” 2016 ambulances belonging to the city of Coppell are available at a “very reasonable” price, he said.
“I’d be very surprised if you found another truck at that price or less,” Miller said.

The board also voted to approve the purchase of radios for its new ambulances, along with services to install and program them. Another major purchase approved in preparation for the fall revamp was an extensive software platform to major various department requirements.
The board tabled discussion about its request for quotation for architectural services to build a new station in Natalia. A miscommunication as to the topic for discussion posted in the official agenda trigger the postponement.
Regarding the proposed ambulance purchase, Miller told the board that the two diesel ambulances being retired in October have less than 100,000 miles on them. The city is willing to part with the vehicles for $83,000, complete with stretcher and lift systems.
“I understand that finances are extremely tight,” Miller said. “However, this kind of fell into my lap.”
The letter of intent approved by commissioners gives ESD4 the right to make a thorough inspection of the vehicles before committing to any binding agreement, he said.
“So we go up there and if we don’t like them we walk away, no questions asked,” Miller said.
On a motion by board commissioner Shelly Watson, the board voted 5-0 to approve the letter of intent.
Regarding radios for the two new ESD4 ambulances coming into service this fall, the board approved the purchase from Rocky Mountain, a Colorado-based vendor, for a cost of $7,000 apiece. Miller said the units typically sell for $10,000 apiece.
“The guy actually shipped them to me the next day,” he said. “So they’re sitting in my office even though we haven’t paid for them yet.”
Miller said the strategic decision was made to purchase the older Motorola model retailing for $13,000 less than the latest upgrade but offering all the same essential functions.
“You can put in something ungodly like 3,000 channels,” he said. “You can have a mic and control head in the patient compartment as well as the one mounted in the console in front of the truck.”
If the county decides in the future to switch to a different radio system, the radios being purchased can easily be reprogrammed rather than buying all new equipment, Miller said. The radios also offer the advantage of interoperability or being able to function regardless of what differing radio systems other responding agencies employ.
With regard to installation and programming, Miller recommended Alamo Public Safety Consulting for the work. The company is owned by a former San Antonio fire captain and paramedic who is expert in Motorola systems, he said.
As to the purchase of a software platform to handle various electronic inventory and tracking issues for the revamped ambulance operation, Miller recommended TargetSolutions. Among the primary chores of this new system are:
Tracking inventories of narcotics issued to paramedics.
EMS training and recertification.
Tracking various renewable licenses that expire on an ongoing basis.
Helping paramedics schedule shifts with oversight from administrators.
“TargetSolutions is greatly recommended out of the New Braunsfels Fire Department,” Miller said. “Their division EMS chief is a really good friend of mine.
Along with surveying other Texas agencies utilizing TargetSolutions, he said he attended demonstrations of the software platform. TargetSolutions offers multiple functions with its platform rather than a separate platform for every individual function.
Board Treasurer Juan Zamora made the motion to approve the radio purchase, installation and programming, plus the TargetSolutions software including revisions discussed by the board. With a second by Watson, the board voted 5-0 to approve the action.
In other business, Zamora asked that a presentation by the project management firm AGCM be tabled since the agenda item regarding the planned new Natalia ambulance station referenced the search for an architect, not a project management company.
“I’m sorry we really can’t have this discussion,” Zamora said. “This item is for architects.”
While project management firms do employ architects, their services with regard to managing construction do not ordinarily come into play until five to six months into the design phase, Zamora said.
“The first priority is getting the architects for the design,” he said. “Then they can include under their architect umbrella their project management services.”
Zamora also asked that review and discussion of employee insurance quotes be tabled to give the board more time to study the proposals.
In a report on ambulance runs, Allegiance Mobile Health District Chief Patrick Bourcier said the past month had been “slower” with a total of 167 runs made.
“Everything was within the range limits of the contract as far as timing,” Bourcier said.
None of the runs were “coded” or required an emergency service response code.
“We have a good month when we had some pretty critical patients get from point A to point B with losing their lives,” Bourcier said.
Overall average response time for June was 7.2 minutes with 43 percent accomplished in five minutes or less. Twenty percent of calls logged a response time greater than 10 minutes.
In the Devine transport area, 60 response runs were logged in June with 95 percent accomplished in five minutes or less. Outside the Devine area, total runs logged totaled 107 with 29 percent requiring 10 minutes or more to arrive.
In the Natalia postal district, 44 response runs were logged with an average response time of 7.3 minutes.
ESD4 responded to about 10 mutual aid calls, most of them coming from the Moore area, Bourcier said.
In the treasurer’s report, ESD4 opened the month with a balance of $880,843 and ended with $878,250. Monthly expenses totaled $19,026, weighed against deposits of $16,433.
William Booth with the Texas Department of Emergency Management, serving as Medina County’s new liaison officer, was on hand for the meeting.
“I’m trying to get around to all the meetings and to be familiar with all the different ESDs,” he said.
The board adjourned for an closed executive session to discuss personnel matters but no action was taken after the board reconvened, board president Anthony Martin said. Discussion following the executive session focused on an ESD4 job fair scheduled for July 27.