Response times by the city’s current ambulance provider, Rural/Metro Medical Services, came under harsh scrutiny Tuesday by South Council Member Christopher P. Scanlon, who said he has “unequivocal dissatisfaction” with the company.
The city is in the process of reviewing bids from three ambulance companies, and a new company could be in place by July 1.
Rural/Metro has had the business exclusively since 2005 and is seeking a new contract when its latest contract renewal expires June 30. Also seeking the contract is American Medical Response and a third, unknown company.
Scanlon, one of nine Council members who must approve any new contract, went on record in a letter filed just before the Council met Tuesday, saying he is “extremely concerned” about any potential future contracts with the company.
“Far too many times their response times are woefully, woefully inadequate,” Scanlon said. Firefighters responded quickly to an accident over the weekend on Cushing Place in South Buffalo, and if the victims had to wait for the ambulance, they might not have made it, he said.
Scanlon wrote the letter to Fire Commissioner Garnell W. Whitfield Jr., who is also chairman of the Emergency Medical Services Board, which is reviewing bids for the new contract.
“National standards for ambulance response times are eight minutes for emergency calls, yet there are documented instances of heart attack, gunshot and stabbing victims in the city of Buffalo waiting 13-20 plus minutes for a Rural/Metro ambulance to arrive,” Scanlon wrote.
He urged the board to consider his letter when weighing the bids.
“While I typically believe it is our job to do everything in our power to save the taxpayers money, I think in this instance, it is imperative to take into consideration the quality of services being provided rather than the company offering the lowest bid.”
In Lackawanna last week, the city fire chief expressed similar dissatisfaction with the company’s response times.
A Rural/Metro representative did not immediately return a request for comment.
In other business Tuesday:
• The Council approved a new hookah lounge at Elmwood and Hodge avenues, with some conditions.
Habibi Sheesha Lounge will offer patrons the ability to smoke sheehsa, or flavored tobacco, from a shared pipe, and under state law is classified as a tobacco shop, not a restaurant.
The lounge will not be able to serve food or alcohol, nor allow patrons to smoke cigarettes, said Niagara Council Member David A. Rivera.
Other conditions prohibit the use of a patio, which under city law is reserved for restaurants.
The lounge is allowed to operate from noon to 1 a.m. Sunday through Thursday and from noon to 4 a.m. Friday and Saturday.
The windows must be closed by 11 p.m. or whenever music is played, Rivera said.
• The Council approved a 13-year labor contract with about 30 caulkers, who repair city water lines. The agreement with Teamsters Local 264 provides 2 percent raises between 2007 and 2016 and requires covered employees to live in the city.
• Lawmakers approved a $75,000 settlement with retired Police Lt. Margaret Sack, who in 2010 had filed a federal lawsuit against the city claiming that she was the subject of discrimination and retaliation by the city.
• The Council approved a 10-year management agreement for city property at Canalside with the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp. The 22-page agreement allows the corporation to sell food and beverages and host events on the site.
In exchange, the corporation must pay the city $25,000 per year in rent, plus 10 percent of its surplus after operating expenses.
• The Council agreed to accept a $1 million from the land bank, which will be used for demolitions. The Buffalo Erie Niagara Land Improvement Corp. received funding from Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman’s office, which will go toward demolishing 50 houses in the city.