AUGUSTA, GA (WFXG) - After trying to find common ground on a $700,000 budget cut to ambulance services, the City of Augusta and Gold Cross are at a stalemate.
Wayne Guilfoyle, a vocal advocate for the ambulance service provider, said, "Every one of us either has a family member or a friend that took an ambulance ride." If you ask Gold Cross officials, that translated into 40,500 rides this past year. But, city officials calculate things very differently: only 16,000 rides. How those numbers came to be so different isn't clear just yet. But, that's just the beginning of where the two sides are at odds.
"This city has no legal authority, or jurisdiction, over the ambulance service. Period," said Commissioner Sammie Sias.
Gold Cross previously took Augusta-Richmond County to court, asking to be named the main ambulance service provider in the county. Gold Cross won the case. That's why Sias said the company has to provide service to residents whether the government provides them with a subsidy, or not.
"When you done come into my house and you done took it over, don't expect me to pay the note anymore. It's your house," said Sias.
That analogy didn't fly with Commissioner Guilfoyle. He said commissioners have a duty to negotiate contracts that will benefit the pockets of their constituents. And if the two parties don't find common ground by January 1st, residents will feel a difference.
"Where it's $900 now, come next year, they're going to look at anywhere from $1800 to $2000 for a ride," said Guilfoyle.
The city administrator justifies the $700,000 cut by pointing out that the city is not the only source of revenue for Gold Cross. Jackson added that the city has to fund emergency calls that the fire department responds to, that totaled the same amount of money as the Gold Cross cuts.
With no recommendation from administrative services, commissioners have next week to make a decision on the contract before the new year. Jackson said at that point, she will have been able to have thoroughly read over the counter-offer presented by Gold Cross officials, and make an informed recommendation to the city's governing body.