Baker City Council voted 5-0 Tuesday to buy a new ambulance for $169,400.
The 2021 model, built on a Ford F-350 four-wheel drive chassis, will come from True North Emergency Equipment, which has an office in Hillsboro.
Installing radios and adding logos and other miscellaneous equipment will cost about $5,000, according to a report to councilors from Fire Chief Sean Lee.
The City Council budgeted $180,000 for the ambulance purchase during the fiscal year that started July 1.
Councilors Randy Schiewe and Larry Morrison were absent Tuesday.
In his report, Lee wrote that the Fire Department, which normally has four ambulances available, is down to two.
One ambulance has an engine failure that would cost about $23,000 to replace, Lee said.
The engine on another ambulance, which had been reliable, seized on Friday, and Lee said it’s not yet clear what caused that problem.
While the city waits for the newly purchased ambulance, which should arrive in about 4 months, Lee said he is arranging to borrow an ambulance from the La Grande Fire Department to ensure Baker City has three ambulances available.
It’s not uncommon for the department to have three ambulances on simultaneous calls, he said. Having four ambulances on calls at the same time is rare, he said.
“We are in desperate need of an ambulance,” Lee told councilors Tuesday.
The Council initially considered buying a new ambulance during its Aug. 25 meeting.
Councilor Lynette Perry suggested at that meeting that although she fully supports giving the Fire Department the equipment it needs, she believed the city should delay a decision about buying an ambulance until councilors learned more about Baker County commissioners’ discussions regarding the ambulance service.
Oregon law gives county commissioners the authority to choose which agency provides ambulance service. The area in question includes Baker City and about half of the county outside the city limits.
Last year commissioners sent letters of interest to 21 ambulance providers, including the Baker City Fire Department. The county received three responses, from the city and from two private ambulance services.
Baker City officials have previously expressed concern about the situation, because if the county chose a different ambulance provider, the city would have to make significant cuts to its Fire Department. That’s because revenue from ambulance runs accounts for about 44% of the Department’s budget.
County Commissioner Bruce Nichols attended Tuesday’s meeting. He said a county committee recommends commissioners continue to work with the Baker City Fire Department on planning for ambulance services both inside the city limits and in the areas outside the city limits.
Nichols said the committee has also discussed possibly forming a special district that would oversee ambulance services, rather than having county commissioners choose the ambulance service provider.
He said he thinks Baker City has done a “nice job” with providing ambulance services for decades.
Perry said she would like to see the city negotiate at least a 5-year contract with the county for ambulance service.
In other business Tuesday, councilors voted 5-0 to give $2,500 to New Hope For Eastern Oregon Animals to assist with the nonprofit’s project to spay and neuter feral cats. In the past the city has allocated $1,500 annually to the program.