Header image alt text

Joyce Clark Unfiltered

For "the rest of the story"

If you are a Glendale resident who follows my blog and if you have family members, friends, acquaintances or neighbors who would benefit from knowing what is happening in our community please take a moment to send them a link to my site: http://joyceclarkunfiltered.com . Thank you.

The concept of automatic aid was discussed in Part 1 of this blog. In Part 2, reform issues related to automatic aid were identified. In this part, Part 3, we’ll look at the issue of ambulance service and the demands on public safety of further future annexations by Glendale.

Ambulance service is currently provided in Glendale by Southwest Ambulance (SW), a subsidiary of Rural Metro Corporation, a national company. Sterling Fluharty of the June 2, 2015 edition of the Glendale Star has a good explanation of the relationship between the city and SW Ambulance. Here is the link: http://www.glendalestar.com/news/article_2edd3a9e-098a-11e5-9695-a7b1941abca4.html . It’s a “he said, she said” kind of fight between the city and SW. Each claims the other owes it money. However, one has every right to wonder if the city is dragging its feet in the negotiation of a new contract with SW while it is at the same time securing its own Certificate of Necessity (CON) with the Arizona Health Department. A CON allows an entity to provide ambulance and associated medical services subject to the requirements imposed by the Arizona Health Department. There is another provider available, American Medical Response (AMR), who has just been awarded a Certificate of Necessity (CON) for all of Maricopa County by the Arizona Health Department.

Glendale Fire Chief Mark Burdick in a February 3, 2015 presentation to city council said, “In 2011, AMR proposed replacing the fire department as a primary emergency medical service provider in Dallas, Cincinnati, and Los Angeles, which forced city councils to choose between the fire department and AMR. Their proposal included removing paramedics from fire trucks while utilizing the fire department units to respond and deliver primary service including patient extrication, treatment, and packaging, while the ambulance would only transport and collect all revenue. This proposal places a majority of the cost on the local government, while allowing the ambulance company to collect all profit.” Since he made those remarks Dallas and Los Angeles have contracted with AMR and Cincinnati has not.

City council would be well served to start over and reissue a Request for Service for ambulance service provision.  It is expected that the city would receive bids from Southwest Ambulance, Rural Metro, Phoenix Medical Transport and American Medical Response. After the bids are received staff should present to council the cost implications of all bids to provide ambulance service as well as the investment and on-going costs associated with the city establishing its own ambulance service. The estimated initial start up costs for the city fire department to provide ambulance service would be approximately $1.6 million dollars to cover the purchase of 4 new ambulances at $210,000 each and $760,000 in personnel costs…and that’s just the first year. If staff claims that the cost of city provided ambulance service will pay for itself – council beware. If I had a dollar for every time I heard that claim from staff I would be very rich indeed. Council should then make the decision based upon what provider is both cost effective and efficient for the residents of Glendale. At least ambulance service is not covered by automatic aid so Glendale will not be sending its ambulance service out of town.

Annexation of land to the west of the Loop 101 presents another set of issues for the city regarding public safety. The city’s current annexation policy requires that the entity seeking annexation secure its own water and sewer service from local providers other than the city. The city does not have the necessary water and sewer infrastructure to accommodate new annexations. While that is an excellent solution for the utility issue provision, police and fire provision will be an issue – a costly issue.

There are 3 possible options for police service: 1. Traditional service which would include the capital cost of building a Westside substation; 2. Contract with the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office which does not require any capital construction costs or 3. Contract with an alternative service provider which also does not require any capital construction costs.

There are 3 options for fire service as well: 1. Create a county island fire district; 2. Traditional service which would include the capital cost of building an additional fire station; or 3. Contract with an alternative service provider such as Rural Metro which does not require any capital construction costs. Perhaps, just perhaps, some of the inequity in fire emergency response (not ambulance service) would be mitigated if other, closer jurisdictions ended up responding to newly annexed areas. City council must consider the cost implications of annexing more land into Glendale until such time as Glendale’s finances can accommodate the additional costs.

The bottom line is these issues impact the public’s health and safety. Council is mandated to look at this issue very carefully while considering the cost to taxpayers. Sometimes we want a Cadillac when a Ford will do.

© Joyce Clark, 2015

FAIR USE NOTICE

This site contains copyrighted material the use of which is in accordance with Title 17 U.S. C., Section 107. The material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of environmental, political, human rights, economic, democratic, scientific and social justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Section 107 of the US Copyright Law and who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information go to http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use,’ you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

First, some further clean up information on the Foothills Library. Questions have arisen as to which entity initiated the idea of sale of Foothills Library. Some contend senior staff offered it to Midwestern in an effort to produce more funds for the city. Others contend that Midwestern approached the city first. The jury is out on that question and only the two principals know the answer. What I find far more interesting is city council three years ago had requested a list of all city properties and their value. To date they have never received such a listing from senior management. To my knowledge, city council has never given specific direction to sell the Foothills Library.

Some have asked about the Capital Improvement Bonds issued to build the library. Voter approval was granted for bond capacity issuance in various categories, including that of parks and libraries. While the voter approval caps the dollar amount of bond value that may be issued, that capacity can be used for any project within its category and is not voter mandated as to which capital projects will be funded.

The current Foothills Library is 33,500 square feet. It would be reduced in size and scope to 9,100 square feet if relocated to the Foothills Recreation and Aquatic Center (FRAC). In reality the relocated library would be placed in the FRAC’s Coyote Room which is 3,000 square feet. The kitchen area in which the library would have access is 500 square feet. The FRAC Activity Room which is occupied by pool tables would be dedicated to the library and is 2,700 square feet. However, the room’s walls are rounded. Thus the useable space is less than 2,700 square feet. The total space is 6,200 square feet, not 9,100 square feet. The additional 3,000 square feet are second floor meeting rooms counted in the library’s new square footage of 9,100 square feet. Those meeting rooms currently are dedicated to Parks and Recreation programming. Special interest classes currently held in those meeting rooms would have to be relocated. The only other option is to share the 3,000 square feet of meeting space between Parks and Recreation and the relocated library.  Hmmm…a reduction in library size from 33,000 square feet to 9,100 square feet (an approximate space reduction of 60%) will certainly enhance library services…not.

As more and more Glendale residents become aware of this proposed sale of the Foothills Library, citizen displeasure and pressure is growing to reject it. You can help by contacting the mayor and council to voice your rejection of this idea at:

Other agenda items from the Tuesday, February 3, 2015 city council workshop was the Glendale Fire Department’s request for a Certificate of Necessity (CON) from the Arizona Department of Health Services to provide city owned and operated advanced life support transport services (ambulances) within Glendale and outside of Glendale (due to Automatic Aid). Council gave its support to proceeding to seek this CON. Once the Certificate is granted, Glendale does not have to implement this service. Make no mistake, the Fire Department will seek any and all opportunities to grow and will seek to implement the service.

I read the minutes of the Arizona Department of Health Services (AZDHS) on the CON application for American Medical Response (it was granted recently). Of interest to note are the rates the state has approved for various medical transport services:

  • Advanced Life Support (ALS) rate: $862.40
  • Basic Life Support (BLS) rate: $768.20
  • Mileage rate: $15.48
  • Standby/Waiting rate: $192.05
  • Subscription Service rate: $80.54
  • Disposable Medical Supply rate: Separate charges apply

We will wait to see what the Fire Department proposes after it receives approval for a Certificate of Necessity. Council should take note that the one time, upfront cost to implement Glendale’s Advanced Life (ALS) Support with 4 new ambulances is said to be $760,000. Fire claims that cost is recoverable. It is not. I also have difficulty in accepting that this is the total cost. An ALS equipped ambulance will be in the neighborhood of $200,000. Add to that the cost of personnel to staff each vehicle.  These are real costs and it doesn’t matter whether it’s contract labor or a full time Glendale employee.

The last agenda item was city council discussion of mayoral and council staff becoming “at-will” employees rather than as they are now, classified employees. It is my observation that council missed a golden opportunity to insure its independence and confidentiality. City Manager Brenda Fischer announced that insuring council’s confidentiality was an “administrative” prerogative. Brent Stoddard, Director of Intergovernmental Affairs and Supervisor of all council staff, assured council that he would maintain council staff’s “political sensitivity.” While council staff does not report directly to Fischer, it does directly report to Stoddard. And who does Stoddard report to? Why, City Manager Fischer. Duh… When Mayor Weiers asked if there would be retaliation if his staff refused to divulge confidential matters, he got a non-answer. Not exactly reassuring. Councilmembers Turner, Sherwood, Chavira and Aldama were in the majority and wished no change to the current employee status.

Of note: Did you know the Phoenix Business Journal is about to present City Manager Brenda Fischer with the “Outstanding Woman in Business Award?” I guess they didn’t get the memo on Fischer’s very public tantrum at the Yard House restaurant berating Don Heicht, the CEO of the Glendale Chamber of Commerce. A majority of Glendale’s residents are embarrassed by her non-professionalism and believe at the very least, she deserves a reprimand in her personnel file.

Lastly, Republican State Senator Sylvia Allen of Snowflake introduced a bill this week that is designed to gut the state’s Open Meeting Law. Currently the law forbids elected officials from discussing upcoming agenda issues in secret among themselves. Allen’s bill allows elected officials to discuss agenda items prior to their vote, secretly. Please take the time to email Glendale’s state representatives with your expression of non support for this legislation:

Emails are a fast, efficient and very effective way to let your elected officials know your position on proposed legislation whether it is to the Glendale mayor and council to express your disapproval of the proposed sale of Foothills Library; or to your state representatives on legislation to destroy the state’s Open Meeting Law. Your voice does count…make it heard today!

© Joyce Clark, 2015

FAIR USE NOTICE

This site contains copyrighted material the use of which is in accordance with Title 17 U.S. C., Section 107. The material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of environmental, political, human rights, economic, democratic, scientific and social justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Section 107 of the US Copyright Law and who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information go to http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use,’ you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

Today marks the 2nd Anniversary of my blog with 181,497 reads. Thank you to all who have taken the time to read it.

Thank goodness the Super Bowl is now over. It feels so-o-o good to be back to normal. Congratulations to the Seahawks and Patriots for a great game. I’m please that my team, the Patriots won.

In my previous blog information on a proposal to relocate the Foothills Branch Library was offered. It is agenda item #1 on the Glendale city council workshop this coming Tuesday, February 3, 2015. In the second agenda item Fire Chief Mark Burdick is seeking approval to pursue an award of a Certificate of Necessity (CON) for the Glendale Fire Department. The third agenda item is a discussion of allowing the mayor’s and council’s support staff to become at-will employees.

What is a CON? It is permission granted by the Arizona Department of Health Services (AZDHS) that allows an entity to provide specific medical services, in this case, permission to medically transport people after a 911 call or on a non-emergency, routine basis. What is the rationale for our fire department’s request? Southwest Ambulance and Professional Medical Transport (both with CONs to operate in Glendale) are subsidiaries of Rural Metro Corporation. Rural Metro is proceeding with a Chapter 11 bankruptcy and court ordered reorganization. American Medical Response, the largest national provider of medical transport, has applied for a CON for all of Maricopa County, including Glendale. After reading 75 pages of an administrative hearing regarding granting a CON to American Medical Response, the hearing officer has recommended approval to the Director of AZDHS. It appears it will be granted.

How does response to a medical emergency in Glendale work now? Someone has, for example, a heart attack. 911 is called and a big Glendale fire truck with paramedics (one is usually Advanced Life Support [ALS] certified) on board arrives. While stabilizing the patient an ambulance is called to transport the patient to a hospital. In our city that is Southwest Ambulance.

If Glendale pursues and is granted its own CON, Glendale can get into the medical transport business in the city. Does Glendale have fully outfitted ambulances now? The answer is no. There would have to be a major, capital investment in fully outfitted ambulances and additional firefighter/paramedics would have to be hired. In the American Medical Response hearing minutes it was stated that a basic ambulance costs about $125,000 and another $75,000 to outfit it properly. It appears each ambulance would cost in the neighborhood of $200,000. Would 5 ambulances be enough to cover Glendale? Just five of them would cost a million dollars and that’s without any Glendale firefighter/paramedics salaries and benefits to be paid for staffing the vehicles. That’s an additional cost that I cannot calculate. In Glendale’s current financial condition these are costs that it cannot afford to take on at this time. It is simply not an absolute necessity.

Everyone is waving the Rural Metro bankruptcy flag predicting dire consequences for medical transport in Glendale. I am not convinced of that. Its subsidiary that serves Glendale, Southwest Ambulance, has been a wonderful partner to Glendale. Rural Metro has been dealing with this bankruptcy for several years and the performance of Southwest Ambulance has not suffered. Southwest committed to leasing out a majority of Glendale’s downtown parking garage’s first floor office space when no one else would. It has donated thousands of dollars to many significant medical awareness issues within Glendale. When the city has needed a donation for nearly any cause it could always count on Southwest Ambulance. Southwest has partnered with Glendale on many innovative projects over the years. Why is Chief Burdick so willing to kick it to the curb now?

It presents quite a dilemma for Councilmember Sammy Chavira, who is a Phoenix firefighter (Phoenix has its own CON and does its own medical transport). Will he abandon his good friend, Martin Nowakowski, former Director of Public Relations for Southwest Ambulance until 2013 and a major advocate/supporter of Sammy’s 2012 run for city council? Or will he be in favor of Glendale Fire Chief Mark Burdick’s request? Burdick works closely with Kara Kalkbrenner, Phoenix’s newly appointed Fire Chief and Chavira’s boss. Hmmm, this should be interesting.

The last agenda item will be discussion of at-will positions for the staff members of the mayor and city council. It is an action long overdue. Under the current system, mayoral and council staff is ultimately responsible to supervisory employees, including the City Manager. Currently the Supervisor of mayoral and council staff is Intergovernmental Director Brent Stoddard. This unusual situation is a result of the removal of the position of council staff supervisor by the Human Resources Department. In some cases, there may be no loyalty to the elected official. In a few instances, council staff has been asked to report on councilmember activity to City Manager staff. It happened when I served on City Council. When an elected official leaves and is replaced, there have been occasions when staff members deemed not to be a good fit with an elected official, have been moved to another equivalent position within the organization but they are not fired.

With an at-will system, the elected official can select and hire his or her own staffer. That person serves at the pleasure of the elected official. There is a strong bond of loyalty. When the elected official leaves the staffer is no longer employed by the city and when a new official comes on board, he or she will hire a new staffer of their choice. This is an action that should occur to preserve the discretion and independence of the elected official.

© Joyce Clark, 2015

FAIR USE NOTICE

This site contains copyrighted material the use of which is in accordance with Title 17 U.S. C., Section 107. The material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of environmental, political, human rights, economic, democratic, scientific and social justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Section 107 of the US Copyright Law and who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information go to http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use,’ you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

%d bloggers like this: