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Augusta Commission agrees to EMS committee, wastewater contract adjustment



AUGUSTA, Ga. – Augusta commissioners backed away from opposition to creating an EMS committee Tuesday, saying it was not related to provider Gold Cross EMS, and OK’d a $3 million contract adjustment with the city’s private wastewater treatment operator.

Commissioner Ben Hasan said the subcommittee wasn’t intended to negotiate with Gold Cross, which recently submitted a revised memorandum of understanding seeking a larger city supplement, but for the city to look at the service it needs.

The committee – which will include Hasan as chairman and commissioners Sammie Sias, Dennis Williams, Brandon Garrett and John Clarke – was opposed last week by Garrett and Clarke, who said the city administrator and general counsel should negotiate the EMS contract.

The committee will examine “what EMS should look like,” such as “something we can measure, something we can expect,” Hasan said. One detail in the EMS contract was whether the city should provide its three ambulances or rely on Gold Cross for coverage.

The city and Gold Cross have haggled and litigated for nearly a decade over ownership of the EMS “zone,” a state designation that entitles the owner access to all EMS calls.

The committee will “develop and recommend key criteria, guidelines and performance standards for ambulances in Richmond County,” and meetings will be open to the public, Hasan said.

Commissioner Catherine Smith McKnight again opposed a $3 million prior-year contract adjustment with wastewater manager ESG Operations, but the increase had the rest of the commission’s support.

McKnight had several questions about the change, including why Augusta Utilities was having ESG bid out work such as painting two freshwater storage tanks instead of the city procurement department, whether a performance bond was required and why the adjustment was for a prior year.

Augusta Utilities Director Wes Byne said a number of the questions dated back to the city’s original contract with ESG or its later extension. ESG had the capability to do the painting and qualified as a professional service to do it.

Painting bids submitted to the procurement department were deemed noncompliant, City Administrator Odie Donald said.