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With No New Deal, Augusta's Ambulance Provider May Double Rates

Jan. 03--The chief financial officer for Augusta's ambulance provider said the firm is studying doubling its rates and has already begun charging the patient a $250 fee when an EMS call doesn't result in the person being transported to the hospital.

The changes are coming in light of the city's unwillingness -- so far -- to negotiate a new contract with Gold Cross EMS, its provider for more than a decade, company CFO Frank Lindley said.

"I'll make up the shortfall," he said. "They're cutting me $93,000 a month."

The existing contract between the city and Gold Cross expired Saturday, and the budget approved by the commission last month reduced the city's subsidy to the company from $1.1 million to about $380,000.

The matter has had the commission at odds for weeks. Commissioner Sean Frantom tweeted Saturday that "rates go up at midnight and a $250 and up transfer fee is now in effect." Mayor Hardie Davis tweeted that Gold Cross, as state-designated "zone provider" in Augusta, is "responsible by state law to respond to all emergency service calls."

Neither Davis nor Frantom would comment further Monday, but another commissioner, Dennis Williams, has requested the commission approve the reduced $380,000 subsidy at its Tuesday regular meeting. Commissioner Wayne Guilfoyle has requested a separate discussion about resolving the matter.

Gold Cross may gain a supporter Tuesday from Andrew Jefferson, who takes his oath of office as the commissioner replacing Bill Lockett, who was term limited. Jefferson and reelected commissioners Mary Davis, Sean Frantom and Marion Williams will be given the oaths during a 1 p.m. ceremony.

Other business at the first meeting of the new year includes the commission's election of a mayor pro tem, to serve in Mayor Hardie Davis' absence, and the assignment by the mayor and mayor pro tem of commissioners to the commission's five standing committees. Davis has requested the commission endorse a resolution in support of casino gaming and another in support of moving nonpartisan elections to November, "to coincide with school board elections."

The resolution would conflict with another resolution sought by Guilfoyle requesting those nonpartisan elected officials -- including the mayor and commissioners -- take office in August rather than January. Both address perceived problems resulting from the Georgia legislature's 2013 decision to force the consolidated government to comply with a state law moving nonpartisan county elections from November to mid-year.

Frantom and Commissioner Ben Hasan have asked to reappoint two members of the Richmond County Board of Assessors, Bill B. Lee and Renee D'Antignac. Lee, whose term expires in April 2017, clashed with Jefferson while both served on the Richmond County Board of Education in the early 1990s.

The long-serving members of the assessors board, who garner $625 a month for what they claim is highly specialized knowledge, have been a point of contention on the commission, which voted longtime chairman Charles Smith off the panel last month after 17 years. Lee has been on the board of assessors since 1997.

Reach Susan McCord at (706) 823-3215 or susan.mccord@augustachronicle.com

Copyright 2017 - The Augusta Chronicle, Ga.

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