Private-public ambulance service expected to be in service by May

EAST LIVERPOOL — An ordinance authorizing a lease/purchase agreement for two used ambulances was approved Monday night by city council, paving the way for start-up of a new private-public emergency ambulance service.

The legislation authorizes the mayor and fire chief to execute the agreement with First Government Lease Company of Northfield, Ill., for a total of $112,500, which includes $90,000 for 2008 and 2009 ambulances and $22,500 for the interest, to be paid over five years.

Law Director Charles Payne was asked after the meeting why the city had not had to advertise for bids for the ambulances, and he said each was purchased separately at a cost of under $50,000, the threshold at which government entities are required to seek bids. He did not believe combining the cost in one lease agreement fell under that bidding requirement.

Chief Bill Jones has said he believes the ambulance service should be up and running by May.

Payne came under fire during the public comment period of the meeting by Fifth Street resident Terry Sprague, who complained a “city employee has chosen not to do his job,” referring to a rental license violation that has been referred to his office for resolution.

According to Sprague, who read from letters and memos apparently obtained from the Planning Department, Payne said he already represents that particular property owner so it is a conflict of interest for him to pursue the rental license violation on behalf of the city.

In a memo to Mayor Ryan Stovall, Planning Director Bill Cowan noted that Payne was requesting outside legal counsel be retained to handle the matter.

Sprague said it is not Cowan’s responsibility to find legal counsel or pay for it from his department’s budget in such a case, saying, “It’s Charles’ duty to find outside legal counsel for this case he’s choosing to walk away from and it should come from his budget.”

Councilman Brian Kerr interjected that Payne had done the right thing since it is a case of a conflict of interest, adding, “I think Charles has done a good job.”

After the meeting, Payne said he had done what is mandated by law in the event of a conflict of interest.

Council was also addressed by Robert Ritchey of the county Land Bank Committee, who gave an update on the program in the city, noting that between 11 and 12 derelict properties are slated for demolition in April and another 15 in late spring or early summer.

Councilman Fred Rayl commended the committee, saying, “No group out there has done as much for East Liverpool as the Land Bank.”