The debate is back on over whether the City of Lockport should keep current private ambulance services or return to a city-owned operation. This weekend, residents will have a chance to weigh in.
At a meeting in City Hall from on Saturday afternoon, City of Lockport residents will get to share their view on the services currently offered by Twin City Ambulance. The company has provided service to Lockport since the city ceased its own operation amid a fiscal crisis in 2014.
Common Council Alderman at Large R. Joseph O’Shaughnessy is among those in favor of a return to ambulance service being run by what he calls “the city family.” He said part of the problem with the former city-owned operation was that it wasn’t being billed properly and ended up losing revenue.
“Now I don’t know how you judge a person’s life,” said O’Shaughnessy. “I don’t know if it’s worth ten dollars more in a tax bill, or twenty or whatever it is. But our service was the best. They were local people. They knew where I lived. They probably even knew what was wrong with me before I got there.”
Twin City Ambulance President Terrence Clark said several of the paramedics and Emergency Medical Technicians who currently work at the Lockport station live in the area and specifically bid for shifts there.
If the city decides to return to running its own services, it would have to purchase two ambulances and hire new firefighters – all at an initial cost. However, O’Shaughnessy said estimates show that within the first year of service, the city would net a profit that would offset the cost.
Clark said his organization’s services are better than what the city had up to 2014, and more capable than what the city would be able to provide with the two ambulances it would have to buy.
“There’s more resources that we can bring to bear in the type of partnership that we have right now that the city – acting alone – probably couldn’t do,” said Clark. “Not probably. They simply couldn’t do.”
Clark pointed out that Twin City’s current system of no less than two Lockport-based ambulances – one for basic life support and one for advanced life support – are staffed at all times, with more available from the company’s other locations. He said it keeps an added burden off the city’s firefighters, who are normally the first to respond to medical situations.
“[The firefighters] are really only committed, in most cases, for a matter of minutes,” said Clark. “And if multiple calls come in, they can then free up resources and go to other calls. We had that major fire over last summer. We were able to continue to provide EMS service throughout the city while the fire department was committed to working that fire scene.”
According to Clark, the city sees an average five minute response time in what’s referred to as “hot response,” where ambulances use lights and sirens, and five to six minutes in “cold response,” where ambulances do not use lights or sirens.
Twin City’s current contract with Lockport is due to expire in September, and Clark said the city has already informed his company that the contract – as it reads now – will not be renewed. He’s hopeful that the city will seek a new contract, but isn’t sure what the outcome will be.
The Common Council has until June 30 to inform Twin City of a decision either way, and O’Shaughnessy believes people in the city aren’t aware that the decision is coming up so quickly.
“So we decided to first get a response from the people,” explained O’Shaughnessy. “If the people are satisfied with Twin City, there’s no sense in trying to move forward with this whole thing. If there’s a comfort level that they don’t like about Twin City, then we have to try and make some type of motion or whatever to let our guys handle it again.”
The community meeting will take place on Saturday, March 11 from 2-4 p.m. in City Hall. Clark will be in attendance at the meeting to answer any questions residents may have about Twin City’s services.