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      Amarillo Firefighters Union Prez: City Should Run Ambulance Service

      You've seen the reports that the ambulance service for Amarillo *may* be sold to a big, national emergency medical service provider. But Tuesday, one man pitched the City Commission on the idea to "keep it local".

      James Williams is President of Amarillo Professional Firefighters Local 542. He thinks the city would do better to run the service itself.

      Northwest Texas Hospital runs it now. But Northwest is considering selling it to a company called American Medical Resources.

      Williams says one thing *his* idea has going for it is better response times than the current system, though he's not saying every fire station would be equipped with an ambulance, or that the city could even afford that. "I don't know that there's a 'need' for an ambulance at every station," he says, "but if we have 'em scattered more throughout the city at our fire stations, they can have a quicker response time because they're not coming from (just) two locations."

      Williams also says, even though he knows the city and the hospital are looking at the bottom line as they decide the future of Amarillo's ambulance service, his proposal isn't ruled by the "almighty dollar". "That's not gonna be whether we make the call or not, is whether we're gonna make money on the call," he maintains. "But we honestly believe... we've done the figures, and we believe we can turn a profit on this, to put money back into the general fund for the city."

      That's despite the fact that Northwest claims to have lost $1.6 million on its ambulance service last year. And with that, Williams claims the price of a ride in an ambulance wouldn't go up under his plan. "We have looked at the billing statements or the cost projections that AMS had last year, and their projected ones for 2010, and with the rates they're charging, no, we wouldn't have to go up."

      City Commissioner Jim Simms told ProNews 7 it's too early to tell which service would do a better job, and that's why no decisions have been made yet. "We just want the best ambulance service we can possibly have for our citizens, regardless of who provides it," says Simms, "whether it's the fire department, whether it's AMR... there's several other big ambulance services in the United States." But Simms says the firefighters will be invited to be part of that discussion. And he says it's interesting that AFD's rank-and-file are interested in taking it on, especially now. "Now is the time we must decide the future of how ambulances will run in Amarillo."

      Williams says, if commissioners give his proposal their blessing, the fire department could have the service up and running in 30 days. He also says Amarillo's Hospital District could have the solution to the problem. Williams says the district has a $200 million purse, and some of that money could be used to kick start the city's ambulance service future.