December 21, 2014

Elyria
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Elyria Council has deciding role in new LifeCare pact

ELYRIA — City Council members will be involved in the city’s contractual agreement with LifeCare Ambulance Inc. for years to come as changes to the proposed contract gives the 11-member board a clear role in the process.

A number of changes have emerged from the draft contract presented to Council in early December by Mayor Holly Brinda.

While most are simple adjustments like defining the city’s boundaries and which entities should be first responders, one of the larger changes is in how the new contact can be terminated and who has the authority to do it.

“The mayor has the right by charter to terminate the contract based on the reasons spelled out in the contract, but before that she must advise and consult City Council,” said attorney Ken Stumphauzer, who hammered out the deal as the mayor’s administrative counsel.

It’s just one of several checks and balances built into the three-year agreement, which is subject to renewal twice for a one-year period. The contract also has a dispute resolution component that would include mediation and an impartial arbitrator, if needed. The arbitrator will be chosen by the Council president if the city and LifeCare can’t mutually agree on one to use.

“I would call this the fairest agreement I have ever put together,” Stumphauzer said. “I have put everyone’s interest into this contract.”

Brinda said it’s highly unusual to have Council this involved in the crafting of a contract.

“But it’s better for the whole process for it to be as transparent as possible,” she said.

LifeCare remains a hot-button topic in the city. Council members have taken an unprecedented step in publicly supporting the local ambulance service and fighting for it to remain the city’s sole emergency medical service provider.

“It’s not like we are dealing with a new company that doesn’t have a proven record,” said Council President Mike Lotko, D-at large.

Brinda said the newest contract modifications will likely go through one more review with Stumphauzer and Law Director Scott Serazin before being presented to LifeCare and final negotiations can began. It could happen as soon as next week.

In the meantime, the company is operating under the old contract.

When the new contract is done, it is expected to define LifeCare as the primary provider of emergency medical services, with the Elyria Fire Department taking on a reduced role as first responders.

In addition, LifeCare will be held to response times standards set by the National Fire Protection Agency that include arriving on scene 90 percent of the time within eight minutes after receiving 911 calls and the document also shifts the main oversight of the contract’s compliance to the Joint Quality Assurance Board, which is made up of representatives from the city, LifeCare and University Hospitals Elyria Medical Center.

Contact Lisa Roberson at 329-7121 or lroberson@chroniclet.com. Follow her on Twitter @LisaRobersonCT.