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County fails to attract ambulance companies

After receiving no bids from private companies, county officials consider providing the service.

By BRIDGET HALL

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 18, 2000


INVERNESS -- The county has received no bids from private ambulance companies interested in serving the area, leaving officials with the prospect of providing the service themselves once Florida Regional's contract expires Sept. 30.

County Commissioners are leaning toward the idea of creating a private, not-for-profit foundation that would run the ambulance service, much like the successful system in Volusia County.

Under the Volusia County system, hospital leaders, city and county representatives and officials from the various fire departments sit on the board that oversees the ambulance system.

The equipment belongs to the foundation, but would revert back to the county if the group dissolved.

Officials from Volusia County, in a presentation to Citrus County Commissioners last week, said they had to help fund the ambulance service in the early years, but now the system pays for itself, with enough left over to reinvest in better equipment.

Citrus commissioners asked staff to create a cost comparison between such a public-private system and the commercial ambulance providers. Now that no private ambulance systems have expressed interest, staffers will focus on developing a plan for a public-private system, public safety director Charles Poliseno said.

Citrus County has been paying Florida Regional $700,000 a year for the ambulance service, plus investing $200,000 a year in equipment that the county, not Florida Regional, owns.

Commissioners said last week they would like to decide on a new ambulance system by early May so that it would be ready by the time Florida Regional leaves Oct. 1.

In a separate bidding issue, the county has received responses from three companies interested in managing the jail.

Corrections Corporation of America's contract to manage the jail is up for renewal. County officials said they have been pleased with CCA's performance, but they opened the bidding process because other companies have expressed interest in running the jail.

The county asked companies to submit their qualifications for running the facility and possibly building an expansion to it.

Besides CCA, two other companies responded: Correctional Support and Marantha.

A fourth company filed its qualifications past the deadline and will not be considered, Poliseno said.

Poliseno said he and other county officials will rank the companies and send their recommendation to the County Commission within the next few weeks.

CCA has had financial troubles, but president J. Michael Quinlan sent a letter to Commission Chairman Brad Thorpe last week saying the company will undergo a corporate reorganization to fix those problems.

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