BURTON — A service agreement between the city and Medstar EMS and mobile healthcare provider, announced July 8, is still under scrutiny by the city council because some members think they should have voted on it.
Burton Fire Chief Kirk Wilkinson announced July 8 the city will receive exclusive ambulance service, with 8-minute guaranteed response, free of charge thorough a service agreement between the city and Medstar.
The move follows a similar agreement the City of Davison City, Davison Township and Richfield Township announced in early July.
A recent announcement by the Genesee County Medical Control Authority, which oversees 911, that there have been 13 or 14 instances where the county has three or fewer available EMS units to respond to a 911 call since Halloween, prompted the service agreements in both the Davison area and Burton.
While the council supports the agreement, many think the council, not the administration, should have been the ones who gave their approval on it.
“I feel this should have come before the council for approval,” said Council President Steve Heffner. “I believe it would pass. The charter is very clear on contracts, our forefathers made it so seven people, not one, approve contracts. There’s a reason for that.”
Councilman Danny Wells agreed, adding, “Let’s be clear, an agreement is a contract. At some point it will have to come before us to get our vote.”
City Attorney Amanda Doyle said there are certain aspects to a contract that make it a contract. An offer of good or services, the acceptance of those, what the obligations are and who is gaining what are all considered it determining what is a contract.
“There are a lot of terms to be met to make a contract,” she said. “I can’t speak to this exact agreement or contract…I have not seen it.”
Wells said regardless, it is an agreement on the public safety of the residents in the City of Burton and should be ratified by the city council.
“If something happens it’s going to come back on us, trust me,” he said. “It’s not going to come back on the fire chief, it’s going to come back on us.”
Councilman Tom Martinbianco said he thinks it would behoove the council to have the city attorney research the “service agreement” and see if it is of a contractual nature. If it is, he said, it should be brought before the council for approval.
Heffner agreed, adding that contracts are the council’s responsibility.
Councilwoman Deb Walton asked if the police and fire chiefs were allowed to enter into contracts of less than $10,000 on the city’s behalf, without council approval, to which Mayor Duane Haskins confirmed they were.
Haskins said further when he gave his approval to the agreement, he did not think it would have caused this much controversy because he thought it was something good for the city and its residents.
“I would have never thought if we were guaranteeing our residents ambulance coverage that it would turn into this controversy,” said Haskins. “If this is a power play, then so be it I guess, but this was a good thing for our city.”
He said there are shortages on ambulances in Genesee County and some Burton residents are waiting 9-13 minutes for an ambulance to respond to their emergency.
“Now we’re guaranteed eight minutes. I never in a million years thought this would be an issue,” said Haskins. “Had I thought it would have been an issue, I would have come here and begged for your mercy, first, but I thought this was a great thing for the city.”
Heffner agreed it was “a great thing” but, if it is considered a contract, it must come before the council.
Haskins argued it’s a service agreement rather than a contract.
Heffner asked that all council members receive a copy of the service agreement and that Doyle review it so it can be discussed at the next council meeting. Haskins said he was also working on getting a representative from Medstar to be at that meeting to answer questions.