Forsyth County scaled back the raise for its ambulance service provider during a work session Tuesday.
The county commission voted 5-0 to grant Advanced Ambulance a one-time additional 5 percent increase this year on top of its standard annual 3 percent hike.
After that, the company will receive only the agreed upon annual increase for the duration of the five-year contract, said County Attorney Ken Jarrard.
The agreement trims the amount the county will pay Advanced Ambulance for 2013 by $19,000, from nearly $67,000 to $48,000.
Over the course of the five-year deal, the county will spend about $307,000 less than what was originally agreed to in November.
That month, commissioners voted 3-2 to renew the contract with a 10 percent increase in 2013 and a 3 percent increase based on that each following year.
The county paid Advanced Ambulance about $957,000 for service in 2012. For 2013, the deal totals a little more than $1 million.
Through the agreement, the county receives six 24-hour emergency ambulances staffed by a paramedic and an emergency medical technician.
“We’d almost have a little bit of a compounding effect, and I think that was causing some folks some heartburn,” Jarrard said. “What this new amendment would do is … at the end of 2013, rather than have the next year’s 3 percent go on top of that 8 percent, it would in fact only be 3 percent over a 2013 figure as if it had been 3 percent.”
Advanced Ambulance sought the increase to recoup debts being written off from indigent users, fuel costs that can no longer be absorbed and the use of an extra ambulance above the six required in the contract.
Commissioner Cindy Jones Mills, who started her first term Jan. 1 after the original vote in November, sought to rescind the action based on new information from the company’s owner.
During a Jan. 8 work session, Mills said Stan Rutledge told her and another commissioner that he had not expected to receive the full 10 percent increase.
She added that the request had been made after the budget was set and without going through the “proper channel” of the procurement department.
On Tuesday, the commission rescinded the November vote and reopened the discussion since a written agreement had not been completed.
The terms of the deal were approved Tuesday, but the contract will return to the Feb. 7 meeting, since the specifics of a county “buy back” of equipment had not been finalized.
Jarrard explained that the county has agreed to reimburse Advanced Ambulance if it decides to terminate the agreement and start its own service.
The agreement must include a value for that equipment, including depreciation over the years, so the county knows exactly what its financial obligation would be each year, he said.
The company provided a value of $550,000 for the equipment, but Jarrard asked the commission to consider whether to accept that estimate or have a third-party appraisal.
He agreed to continue working on those figures before the commission’s next regular meeting.