AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) — Augusta’s attempt to get into the zone came up short.
“We hear politics being played into this, well to me, politics was played today,” said Commissioner Catherine Smith McKnight.
A zoom meeting to discuss pursuing the county ambulance zone never got off the ground Friday morning and shut down because of no quorum after only the mayor and five commissioners were on the call.
“I really thought that was going to be an easy way to make sure our staff had the appropriate direction to making sure the zone was applied for by four o’clock today, some of our colleagues were able to make it,” said Mayor Pro-Tem Brandon Garrett.
Commissioner Jordan Johnson did not call in saying he had work commitments, adding the city is in no position to apply for the zone after rejecting the recommended ambulance contract Thursday.
“In order for Augusta to even apply for the zone, we need to be able to prove we can provide the service and at this point, we can’t,” said Commissioner Johnson.
Back on January 25, a motion to pursue the county ambulance zone was passed unanimously, so commissioners said they wanted to use the zoom meeting to see if the staff was following through.
“The city would have already started that process a day or so ago and gotten everything ready because it is a lengthy process but as you saw, there we no answers we could not have any discussion from the attorney or from staff but right now we do not know,” said Commissioner Sean Frantom.
Gold Cross surrendered the ambulance zone in January, but the company reapplied because of what they call unfair treatment in the bid process.
“For one, we didn’t get credit on the bid tabulation for being in Richmond County, we have nine offices in Richmond County, one of our headquarters out at A.U. (Augusta University). Health Division headquarters is on Walton Way,” said Vice President Steven Vincent.
Gold Cross is back in the running for the Richmond County ambulance zone, which could bring the commission and the company negotiating again.
A statement was released by Mayor Johnson’s office Friday afternoon:
“Securing a contract with an EMS provider is an ongoing issue that Mayor Johnson’s Administration inherited, and the Administration hoped a decision would be made prior to the Mayor taking office. This morning, there was a Special Called Meeting to discuss how to proceed with the ERZ application. Unfortunately, the meeting did not happen as there were not enough Commissioners present to constitute a quorum. The zone application deadline was Friday, February 10 at 4PM. Regrettably, Augusta-Richmond County did not submit an application. Applying for the zone would have given the City of Augusta an opportunity to contract with a provider of its choosing and to hold that provider accountable. The City of Augusta’s emergency response zone provider is now at the discretion of the Georgia Department of Public Health.
The well-being of Augusta-Richmond County Constituents and fiscal accountability is always the Mayor’s top priority. Yesterday, the Mayor broke a tie and voted “no” to moving forward with the contract that was recommended as the proposed subsidy far exceeded anything historically offered or paid to any previous EMS provider. The Mayor has always been a supporter of local business as it is the driver of our local and national economy. He is working diligently to establish service that promotes and maintains constituent’s well-being without increased financial burden. The Mayor remains focused on ensuring the contracted provider is responsible and accountable to Augusta-Richmond County citizens should they find themselves in need of emergent care.“