For the past two years, Symons Ambulance of San Bernardino and Bishop was named by Inc. Magazine in its “List of 5,000” as one of the fastest growing companies in the nation with revenue this year listed at $3.9 million. Also this year, Symons has failed to pay the City of Bishop $13,000 for several months of ambulance dispatch services, failed to negotiate a new contract which expired in July, failed to cooperate with financial documents and discussions. Now the City faces the possibility of termination of dispatch service for Symons. This does not mean an end to ambulance service, but it could mean an end to the Bishop Police Department dispatching ambulances.
In a press release issued by the Bishop Police Department, officials say, “At the regularly scheduled City Council meeting of December 9th, Police Chief Chris Carter will ask the Bishop City Council to consider discontinuing providing dispatch service to Symons Emergency Specialties (Ambulance) effective January 1, 2014.” The press release goes on to say that “This request from Chief Carter comes after several months of negotiations with Symons in an attempt to renew an existing contract.”
Symons Ambulance originated in Bishop with founder, Judd Symons. Now, it is a major company with millions in revenue, according to Inc. Magazine. The Symons Ambulance website says the company is the ambulance provider for Southern California areas, including a newly opened Loma Linda University Medical Center in Murrieta. The site also says Symons Ambulance raced the first ambulance in the Baja 1000 on November 18th and recently opened a division in Henderson, Nevada. So why the lack of response and payment to the City of Bishop?
We called Dr. Jeff Grange, President and CEO of Symons Ambulance. When asked about the delinquent payments to Bishop, Dr. Grange said he has been out of the country and needed more information before he could comment. We placed a call to Judd Symons. He did not return our call.
Two days later, Dawn Downs of Symons Ambulance emailed to Sierra Wave Media a brief response to the Bishop Police press release. It is one paragraph and available, along with the Bishop press release, at the end of this story. The Symons ambulance response, signed by Judd Symons, did not answer why payments have not been made nor a contract negotiated. The statement did say that the company has its own dispatch center in San Bernardino but had an agreement in Bishop for such services and has been renegotiating the contract. The statement claims it has insurance reimbursement problems but says they will continue to provide service in Bishop. It was unstated if Symons will pay the City or what dispatch services they will use.
The Police Department has continued to provide dispatch services in spite of non-payment and an un-renewed contract. The Bishop press release says Symons Ambulance had asked the City to reduce their charges, “citing low reimbursement rates and financial difficulties.” The release says Chief Carter brought this request along with proposed contract changes to the City Council in October. The release says, “At that time the City Council was willing to consider the requested changes, however also asked that Symons produce a financial statement verifying the need to reduce the amount the City charges Symons for providing this service.” At news time, Symons had not provided that documentation.
In spite of repeated requests to bring their account current, Symons has failed to pay the City since February and owes $13,000. The press release says initially, Symons Ambulance officials found the terms of the dispatch contract to be “reasonable and fair”. The release says, “While the City of Bishop recognizes and appreciates the valuable service to the public that Symons provides, we cannot ignore the fact that Symons is a private, for-profit business. As such, they are not entitled to have their operation funded with taxpayer monies.”
The press release says all of this does not mean that Symons will cease operations in Bishop. The Police Department, however, would not be responsible for dispatching ambulances to where they are needed. That responsibility would fall on Symons to determine.
The final paragraph of the Police Department press release says that “Chief Carter and the City of Bishop have gone to extraordinary measures in attempts to work with Symons in order to settle the matter and continue to assist Symons in providing services to our citizens. Unfortunately,” says the City, “it appears that an agreement will not be forthcoming.”
BISHOP POLICE DEPARTMENT PRESS RELEASE:
City Council to Consider Termination of Dispatch Service to Symons
Emergency Specialties (Ambulance)
At the regularly scheduled City Council Meeting of December 9, 2013, Chief Chris Carter of the Bishop Police Department will ask the Bishop City Council to consider discontinuing providing dispatch service to Symons Emergency Specialties (Ambulance), effective January 1, 2014. This request from Chief Carter comes after several months of negotiations with Symons in an attempt to renew an existing contract.
In July of 2012, Symons Ambulance and the City of Bishop entered into a contract whereby the Police Department would dispatch Symons ambulances throughout the greater Bishop area.
That contract expired in July of 2013 and the Police Department has continued to provide dispatching of ambulances while attempts to renegotiate the contract were ongoing. During the negotiations process Symons Emergency Specialties, which is based out of San Bernardino, had made a request for the City to reduce their charges, citing low reimbursement rates and financial difficulties. Chief Carter brought this request along with other proposed changes to the contract before the Bishop City Council in October. At that time the City Council was willing to consider the requested changes, however also asked that Symons produce a financial statement verifying the need to reduce the amount the City charges Symons for providing this service.
As of today, Symons Emergency Specialties has not responded to the City’s request to provide documentation of financial hardship. Additionally, Symons owes the City approximately $13,000 and has not remitted payment for services to the City of Bishop since February of 2013, despite repeated requests that they attempt to bring their account into balance.
When the contract was originally constructed, a representative of Symons met with Chief Carter and City Administrator Keith Caldwell. The terms and conditions of the contract were determined to be reasonable and fair and thereafter agreed to by all parties. While the City of Bishop recognizes and appreciates the valuable service to the public that Symons provides, we cannot ignore the fact that Symons is a private, for-profit business. As such, they are not entitled to have their operation funded with tax payer monies. Even where one Government Agency is providing similar service to another, the costs for those services must be covered. Currently the Town of Mammoth Lakes Police Department contracts with Mono County for law enforcement dispatching services. The Town of Mammoth Lakes is contractually obligated to pay Mono County for this service.
This does not mean that Symons will cease operations and there will be no ambulance service, it only means that the Bishop Police Department will not be responsible for dispatching ambulances to where they are needed. This responsibility will now fall back upon Symons and they will determine how best to accomplish this task.
Chief Carter and the City of Bishop have gone to extraordinary measures in attempts to work with Symons in order to settle the matter and continue to assist Symons in providing service to our citizens. Unfortunately, it appears that an agreement will not be forthcoming. Should the Bishop City Council agree to Chief Carter’s request, the Police Department will discontinue service effective January 1, 2014.
SYMONS AMBULANCE STATEMENT:
Symons Ambulance remains committed to providing the residents of Bishop with the highest quality ambulance service. Symons Ambulance has it own dispatch center in San Bernardino, however, in order to provide better service to the local community, Symons had an agreement with the Bishop Police Department for dispatch services. Due to increasingly decreased reimbursements for emergency services, Symons has been in the process of renegotiating the dispatch contract and already made the first payment for services rendered. The residents of Bishop can continue to rely upon Symons Ambulance to provide them with timely, compassionate, high quality medical care.