The Baker City Council on Tuesday deferred making a decision on a proposal from the fire department to buy a new ambulance.
The Council, with four of the seven members attending, asked Fire Chief Sean Lee to gather more information from a Washington company that sells ambulances, and to bring councilors more details about a lease option.
Councilors Arvid Andersen, Jason Spriet and Larry Morrison were absent Tuesday.
Councilor Lynette Perry said Tuesday that she thinks the city should delay spending money on an ambulance until Baker County has made a decision about whether the Baker City Fire Department will continue to be the ambulance service inside the city and for more than half of Baker County outside the city limits.
The city budgeted $180,000 to buy a new ambulance during the fiscal year that started July 1.
The Baker County Board of Commissioners has the authority to choose the provider for that ambulance service area, and last year commissioners sent letters of interest to 21 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.
The county hasn’t made any decision on the matter.
“I do not believe the city should put out any expenditures for anything, including an ambulance, for the ambulance side of the fire department/ambulance service until this issue is resolved,” Perry said Tuesday. “If the county wants to be in charge of the ambulance service, they should be the one purchasing the ambulance with county funds.”
Perry said she strongly supports the fire department.
“Of all the city departments, I support the fire department and police department above all others,” she said. “You are 24/7, you’re putting your lives on the line, and you deserve every bit of support that we can give you.”
City Manager Fred Warner Jr. said city officials have had discussions with county officials about the ambulance service.
“They decided to work with Baker City because there was a lot of questions about what their rural fire district would look like and Baker City’s fire would look like because if they gave away the ambulance service Baker City would no longer do any of that service,” Warner said. “We can’t do it within just the city limits.”
“I want us to have the ambulances we need but I really think we need to get a contract with the county locking in several years down the road that will guarantee we will be their provider before we put out another huge expenditure,” Perry said.
In other business Tuesday, councilors:
• unanimously approved the first two of three required readings of an ordinance amending the city’s comprehensive plan, development code and zoning map.
• unanimously awarded a bid of $125,000 to Planned and Engineered Construction Inc. of Helena, Montana, to install a sealer in about 1,800 feet of sewer pipes.
• unanimously approved a resolution authorizing the city to spend $75,000 the city received from the CARES Act for COVID-19-related relief. A city committee met Wednesday night to hear requests from groups applying for some of the aid.