Recent Clackamas County Commission meetings have been dominated by the controversial process for awarding a contract to provide critical ambulance and other medical services. 

American Medical Response (AMR) has provided exceptional service to the citizens since 1991. In 2012, the previous commission authorized a process known as a “request for proposals” because the existing contract was going to expire.

Bidding for government contracts is a very time-consuming and expensive process for all parties. Last year Commissioner Jim Bernard and others modified the bidding criteria to place more emphasis on lowest cost. As the deadline for submitting proposals approached, only AMR and Metro West Ambulance were in the running. AMR presented a bid that provided cost savings and a commitment to future innovation. Unfortunately, Metro West’s bid was not submitted before the deadline.

Although AMR appears to legally be deserving of the new four-year contract, Commissioners Bernard, John Ludlow and Tootie Smith recently voted not to honor the agreement, choosing to extend the existing contract for only one year.  

I estimate that AMR and the taxpayers have invested at least $300,000 on a process that is being ignored. On Jan. 28, those three commissioners voted to approve a one-year extension of the existing contract. Commissioners Paul Savas and Martha Schrader voted against the short-sighted decision.

In spite of repeated public testimony in favor of AMR and its reputation for superior service, AMR and its employees were left wondering why their four-year contract wasn’t approved.

Many believe that possible future campaign considerations have affected their reasoning. Bernard is running for re-election this year and many citizens are already troubled by his involvement in the Milwaukie light-rail line that is being built near his many downtown properties. 

Regardless of the reasons expressed by Commissioners Ludlow, Bernard and Smith, the county now faces a $20 million lawsuit for failing to award the four-year contract. The situation has become a media circus that the county does not need. Ironically, our roads need about $18 million in repairs and the possibility of losing a huge court case is the last thing we need.  

Please contact the commissioners and demand they reconsider the recent decision.

Les Poole is a Gladstone resident.

Contract Publishing

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