As of midnight Friday, ProMed Ambulance is the emergency medical services provider for Hamburg and the surrounding areas.

The Hamburg City Council voted Thursday evening to give Mayor Dane Weindorf authority to enter a contract with ProMed Ambulance Service, a vote that followed the council’s previous decision to hire ProMed after a bidding process. The contract will be funded with the 1-cent sales tax voters approved in September, and includes rent and insurance support while ProMed rents the FAST Ambulance bay until the new Hamburg Fire Station is completed. Once the fire station is completed, ProMed’s Hamburg operations will be housed there and the city will provide electrical, water, sewer, trash pickup and natural gas service as well as furniture, beds, kitchen appliances and a washer and dryer.

The temporary rent support will be for $1,200 a month, and the insurance subsidy will be for $2,900 a month.

ProMed officially took over ambulance operations in Hamburg at midnight Friday. The city had been subsidizing FAST at $10,000 a month and had planned to do so through the end of March, but FAST closed its operations at the end of February. Weindorf said Thursday he wanted to thank ProMed for getting ready to operate in Hamburg a month earlier than anticipated.

“I know it wasn’t easy, but I want to thank you for gearing up and coming a month early,” he said. “(ProMed) are going to be an asset for our community just like FAST was.”

Hamburg City Attorney Paul Keith said the contract with ProMed— which specifies that the company will serve the area with two Advanced Life Support ambulances — is for three years, and will automatically renew for a fourth unless the city or ProMed gives notice of non-renewal. It also allows the city to bring in support at ProMed’s expense if the new company is not able to perform as specified in the contract.

Because ProMed had to start sooner than originally anticipated, the contract only requires staffing of one ALS ambulance before May 1, though it states that if ProMed attains “sufficient certified staff levels to support two ALS ambulances prior to May 1...it shall certify that fact to the City in writing.” The notification will trigger the city’s full payments of the negotiated $23,583 monthly subsidy.

Prior to that, the city will pay the company $10,000 a month in addition to the rent and insurance costs.

The contract also grants Pro-Med a franchise for the coverage area, which includes everything in Ashley County that the Crossett Fire Department does not cover.

The majority of the FAST crew has been hired at the Crossett Fire Department.

Crossett Fire Chief Bo Higginbotham said picking up the FAST crew added two paramedics and an Emergency Medical Technician to Crossett’s first responders.

“I had five paramedic slots open and one EMT slot,” Higginbotham said. “This helps with our staffing. We are three from having a full house, and we have some guys in paramedic school, but it is going to be a year, a year-and-a-half before they are done.”

“It protects them as much as possible so they will have the exclusive right and so there won’t be confusion when the 911 call comes as to who the dispatcher needs to reach out to,” Keith said.

Councilwoman Deanne Murphy made the motion to enter the contract with the company, and Councilman Danny Shelton seconded it. It passed unanimously 5-0. Councilwoman Derinda Stanley was absent.

Weindorf thanked FAST for the work the company has done in the city. FAST operated in Hamburg from 2010 through the end of February, and stayed open after facing closure for financial reasons. The company’s closure was forestalled by agreements with Ashley County Medical Center and later the City of Hamburg.

“ I would like to thank them publicly for your dedication to service in Hamburg and the surrounding area,” he said to the company’s representatives at the Thursday meeting. “Without y’all, we would have been left short handed – real short handed.

“It is important to me and the people what you have done. Thank you very much.”

In other news at the Thursday meeting:

-The council voted to lease city property adjacent to the rural waterworks facility to the Milo Fire Department, which will allow the department to build a fire station.

Keith said the lease will restrict the use of the property to the construction of a fire station, and any use that would impair the operations of the rural water district would result in the termination of the lease, which is for $1 a year for 99 years.

“They will keep (the property) clean,” Weindorf said. “It is a win-win for them as well as us. It is taking care of your neighbors we are going to help them and they will help us.”

-The council voted to amend the city ordinance governing the size of the volunteer fire department. Following the vote, the department may have 25 members.

Weindorf said the decision to expand the size of the department was made because city officials feel like it is going to be needed.

The council also amended the ordinance to allow volunteer members who are employed by other fire departments. The ordinance will still restrict members to being volunteer firefighters at Hamburg alone.

-Weindorf said that once the city completes the new fire station, it will seek to have the Hamburg ISO rating re-evaluated, which he said could affect insurance rates by 10 to 12 percent if the city can drop another two points.

“It can also help the surrounding areas, because they feed off our of our city rating,” Weindorf said. “I think one of our best assets to the city is our volunteer fire department. Our public safety is at a level I am very proud of.”

-Weindorf announced that the city’s softball and baseball programs will be starting in April.

“We will have softball and baseball this year, it is just starting late,” he said.

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