CLACKAMAS, Ore. -- Dozens of American Medical Response EMTs and paramedics lined the SE Sunnyside Rd. overpass of I-205 Tuesday morning, holding signs and asking for honks.
They said 120 of their jobs are on the line in a fight with Clackamas County over whether to renew their company's contract.
At a county board meeting an hour later, commissioners voted to negotiate to extend that contract only one year. In that year, commissioners may decide to hold another bidding process to get a new ambulance company.
Right now, if you need an ambulance in Clackamas County, American Medical Response, better known as AMR, shows up. Their multi-million dollar contract, the most expensive in the county, expires at the end of April.
But Clackamas County wants a cheaper deal, so two years ago it had other ambulance companies submit a bid with their best price. Only AMR met the deadline, and won support from all the fire departments in the county. AMR employees even agreed on a pay cut to make it more attractive.
AMR won the bid. But now, three county commissioners are backing out of it, saying the proposal they choose needs to be even cheaper and more innovative.
"The public will be the ultimate loser if we continue down the same path that we are right now," said Commissioner Tootie Smith, one of the opponents. "I'm willing to put my job on the line here today to go forward with a better system."
At their rally to inform the public of the fight, paramedic spokesman Garth Hope-Melnick talked about the confusion of getting their bid approved, then having it voted down. "AMR already won the bid, this is about citizens of Clackamas County needing to know that their commissioners are making some really questionable decisions," Hope-Melnick said. "It doesn't seem very responsible of commissioners. It doesn't seem like good government, frankly, to turn around and say we'll start over and go through this two year process again."
If a new ambulance company is chosen, AMR supporters argue it'll be tough to quickly learn special skills such as helping during a rescue on Mt. Hood.