BELTON — The three bright red ambulances here are embellished with this city’s name.
The paramedics inside, though, will no longer be Belton employees starting Oct. 1. They will be employed by the Colorado-based private emergency medical service provider American Medical Response.
The City Council unanimously approved a one-year contract with the EMS provider — which also has agreements with the city of Temple and the Bell County government — to run Belton’s ambulance service. The contract includes two one-year renewal options.
“We spent several months working on this. We believe it is in our best interest to implement this change,” City Manager Sam Listi said. “We do not make this decision lightly.”
This contract comes after the Belton Fire Department lost 17 employees in a year and four months after AMR started operating one ambulance in Belton.
“We’ve had a tough year with the loss of paramedics. I personally was not in favor of going to an outside ambulance service to (take care of) the city’s needs,” Mayor Marion Grayson said, explaining her initial hesitation to allow AMR to takeover Belton’s ambulance service.
Several councilmen said this contract was the right direction to take the city.
“There are communities smaller than us who have no service at all these days and who are begging for help,” Councilman Dan Kirkley said. “I think this is obviously the direction we need to go.”
By eliminating its EMS, Belton is cutting $614,235 from its budget. After Belton lost its contract with Bell County to provide ambulance service in nearby rural areas, the city lost $520,000 in revenue. Listi said the city should see a positive fiscal impact of $94,235.
“There is no fee to the city of Belton for this service,” Listi said. “AMR is going to make their money on the services they are providing as a result of this agreement.”
The agreement calls for one paramedic and one emergency medical technician on each ambulance, which will be leased to AMR for $2,100 each month. The response time is not to exceed an average of 7 ½ minutes. The city will lease the crew quarters at both fire stations for $1,600 a month.
The Fire Department will see a reduction in staff, going from 30 to 24 employees. Those six positions are budgeted, but are currently vacant. The Fire Department currently has 23 employees.
Under the staffing plan, there will be a minimum of three firefighters per shift at each station, with up to eight per shift. AMR will have two people operating an ambulance at each station.
“Our (fire) officers will be able to remain in the city at all times,” the city manager said.
The cost of using an ambulance will increase for residents. The base rate for emergency advanced life support will be $1,125 — a $275 increase from the $850 the city charged. The rate for basic life support services is $900 — a $300 increase from Belton’s rate of $600.
Mileage will cost $20 per mile with AMR. Previously, it was $15 per mile.
While most of the rates will increase, AMR does not charge for no transport treatment calls. Belton charged between $200 to $700 depending on the care provided.
Mayor pro tem Wayne Carpenter stressed this decision is focused on residents.
“The bottom line is we want to provide the best service we can to our citizens,” he said.