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Clackamas County to AMR: Take it or leave it?

American Medical Response executives will attempt to break up a potential stalemate after Clackamas County commissioners voted 3-2 on Tuesday to offer a one-year extension on the contentious ambulance contract.

In the final weeks of the current extension that expires April 30, both sides are under increasing pressure to come to an agreement.

AMR Oregon General Manager Randy Lauer was uncertain how his company would respond after the county board majority Jan. 28 directed staff to negotiate a one-year extension to the current contract.

“It seems so far more like a ‘take it or leave it’ stance, rather than good-faith negotiations,” Lauer said. “However, we are hoping for an opportunity to sit down directly with a few commissioners to see if we can find a resolution to the current situation.”

County Chairman John Ludlow, County Commissioner Jim Bernard and Commissioner Tootie Smith supported the offer of a one-year extension. Those same commissioners voted the week before to deny AMR’s regular four-year extension. Although AMR’s annual profit margin is only around 1 percent, they argue that additional time could find cost-saving measures to benefit the county and ambulance consumers.

Saying one year isn’t sufficient time to achieve those objectives, county commissioners Paul Savas and Martha Schrader have opposed a short-term extension and pushed for the longer extension. They point to AMR’s excellent service, response time and experience, especially its “Reach and Treat” team that responds to falls and other Mt. Hood National Forest incidents.

Bernard and Ludlow have been against AMR’s bid from the beginning. Smith was the only member of the current board majority to vote last year to allow county staff to consider the bid.

Meanwhile, AMR won’t be withdrawing its lawsuit threat against the county in response to three commissioners rejecting its sole proposal for a new four-year contract. AMR’s Oregon competitors, Metro West Ambulance and Rural/Metro Ambulance, either missed deadlines to bid or didn’t follow through on pledges to bid.

In the midst of the fracas, both sides tried to keep publicly civil: Commissioners praised the efforts of first-responders, and AMR executives pledged to continue providing ambulance service for Clackamas County in spite of political infighting among county commissioners.



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