Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

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Columbia County News

County Torpedoes EMS Study

The EMS RFP review committee meeting got off to a calm start, which was soon about to change. Around the table are (left to right) Mike Lee, Com DuPree, Don Hall, City Manager Johnson, Councilman Hill, City Clerk Sikes, County Manager Williams, County Attorney Marlin Feagle.

Late yesterday afternoon the City/County EMS RFP Review Committee met to approve an RFP (request for proposal) which would have gone a long way in providing answers to the long simmering questions between Columbia County and Lake City regarding the outstanding $750,000 bill and $250,000 yearly payment that the County claims the City owes for EMS services. The County torpedoed the plan.

City Manager Johnson kicked off the meeting by introducing the people and he explained the RFP: "I will tell you this is not a cookie cutter RFP and it is not one that I copied off the Internet. I had to build this from scratch and it took me about two months to put it together."

CM Johnson continued, saying that the RFP was designed to provide very comprehensive components of information that would help both governing bodies "make a good decision" and said that it didn't leave much to the imagination.

Eighteen days ago Lake City forwarded to Columbia County the RFP entitled, "Comprehensive Cost Sharing Study of Columbia County Emergency Medical Services (EMS)."

County Manager, Dale Williams said that he had reviewed the RFP and he passed around a copy with his suggested changes. CM Williams told the Observer that the changes were made "this afternoon."

CM Williams wanted to strike  the word "Comprehensive"

County Manager Dale Williams goes over his suggested changes, as City Clerk Sikes and Councilman Hill follow along.

The first change that the County suggested was to strike the word "Comprehensive" from the title of the RFP.

The County then balked at the idea that the study would "determine levels of cost, distribution of costs and other factors relating to County/City EMS Services," even though the County had already agreed that the study would leave no stone unturned.

CM Johnson said, "I want to know the real deal. I want someone besides you or me saying what source of information can be used to pay these services... I want an expert to come in and tell me what the sources of funds are that can be used to pay EMS services and whether or not the city, in fact, pays its fair share."

CM Williams, "We will disagree."

County Commissioner Jody DuPree asked if this was not two different elements.

CM Johnson, "It's a matter of fairness."

City Manager Wendell Johnson followed CM Williams' objections before he spoke.

CM Johnson explained the City's position, "It's a matter of fairness... when our counterparts in the county do not pay additional for it."

CM Williams response was barely audible, "That's true."

The County was backing off the RFP for the study as fast as it could backpedal.

Commissioner DuPree made it obvious that he hadn't read, nor did he understand the RFP.

Mr. Hall, the County's citizen representative, through no fault of his own, was lost in the sea of issues.

County Manager Williams said that the scope of services that was prepared by the City Manager went "well beyond the intent of the study."

CM Williams continued, "The only thing that I know to do is to present it to my Board and let the Board decide."

CM Johnson replied, "That's not part of the agreement. The Board agreed to let the committee decide."

Former City Councilman, Mike Lee, asked if the CM Williams knew how other counties funded EMS.

CM Williams said he didn't know and stated, "From our perspective ... it's what works for us."

The discussion was going nowhere and the light at the end of the EMS tunnel was getting further away as County Manager Williams remarked about the RFP.

CM Williams told CM Johnson, "Let's be a little honest. You wrote it for wishful thinkin."

Com DuPree was the only one who laughed.

CM Johnson, "No I didn't."

CM Williams, "Sure you did."

CM Johnson, "That's a Dale Williams assumption right there."

CM Williams, "It is."

CM Johnson, "It's funny to you and Jody [Com DuPree] but I don't hear nobody else laughing."

CM Williams, "Well listen."

CM Johnson, "I've got an easy solution to this. We just don't pay the $250,000 and consider it square."

CM Williams wasn't laughing anymore, "No, you don't pay but you know I don't consider it square."

A judge is going to have to do the same thing

CM Johnson, "Let's take it to court – If that's what you want to do. Just take it to court and let a Judge decide. He's going to do the same thing. He's going to have to."

Com DuPree said, "That might be the simplest thing to do."

CM Johnson to CM Williams, "My understanding – the County Commission made the agreement – the City Council made the agreement to do this and now you either don't want to do it because you don't agree with the RFP..."

CM Williams, "Exactly."

Com DuPree: "I agree with Dale [Williams]... I know the intent of how I understood what we're gonna do. Was to figure out whose court – what everybody is to make sure you all were not paying a penny more then what you're part of the service was... I never anticipated that we were going to develop an RFP that the outcome could be – that a position by somebody would be that we're already collecting the money – so we're not entitled to anything."

CM Johnson, "Well good gosh – that's been the whole argument all along."

The meeting closed without any resolution.

After the meeting, City Manager Johnson told the Observer, "I'm sorry that it turned out this way. I would have liked to have been able to move forward with the RFP. I am still hoping that we can."

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