Backed by a strong presence from Nazareth Ambulance Corps (NAC) employees, a paramedic's well-delivered speech convinced Northampton County Council to delay its decision to award a contract for Gracedale residents to LifeStar Response, a non-emergency medical transport service.
Council's unanimous decision will allow NAC to meet with Gracedale's administration, county council representatives and county human services administrators to review the local corps' contract bid to see how far apart the contract amounts are. Clapping from the three dozen NAC uniformed paramedics attending the meeting demonstrated a positive response to council's decision.
Current contract holder Nazareth Ambulance Corps was one of five companies evaluated for a potential three-year contract. Set to expire Oct. 31, the Nazareth medical transport service could possibly lose its bid to LifeStar for non-emergency transport services, but the Nazareth ambulance company would retain all emergency calls placed by Gracedale.
Mike Snyder, a NAC paramedic, urged council to delay its decision to award the contract to LifeStar, saying while LifeStar may save the county money, it could cost lives and would definitely cost jobs. Snyder, a 15-year NAC member, told council members at their Sept. 20 meeting that a lot of local people's jobs depend on this contract.
"We need these jobs here in this community," Snyder said. In describing the bond the local company has with Gracedale's residents, Snyder added, "LifeStar has no vested interest in this community."
According to the procurement notice, Gracedale's administration had recommended LifeStar with a one-year contract of $315,600, which would amount to $946,800 if extended to a three-year contract.
Council has directed the Stoffa administration to re-evaluate the bids, to see how large the gap is between the two bids as well as the compensation packages for LifeStar employees.
While county Executive John Stoffa did not weigh in on the contract dispute at the meeting, he did explain after the meeting that LifeStar had received the recommendation of county council's finance committee, with the exception of Councilman Tom Dietrich, before being presented to council. Council needs to approve by resolution any contract exceeding $100,000.
Stoffa reviewed the evaluating panel's comments on the bids, which said LifeStar already had a contract with Allentown's Phoebe Home and they were satisfied with the service. An evaluator who generally supported the current contract holder also preferred LifeStar because of the better pricing, more in-depth staff, huge fleet of vehicles and personal service.
Stoffa said that LifeStar would save the county $100,000 over three years; their bid was $30,000 a year under the Nazareth Ambulance Corps bid.
If the county's goal is to try to keep Gracedale as a county-owned nursing home and keep taxes down, price needs to play a role in a competitive bidding process, added the county executive.
Council's next regular meeting is at 6:30 p.m. Oct. 4 at Northampton County Courthouse's third floor, 669 Washington St., Easton.