Norwalk council approves new EMS agreement

Cary Ashby • May 10, 2019 at 2:00 PM

Norwalk city council approved the new agreement for emergency medical services (EMS) with Fisher-Titus Affiliated Services with no discussion Tuesday.

Council also passed a related ordinance for Norwalk’s three-year lease agreement with Fisher-Titus Affiliated Services for the North Central EMS building, 42 Woodlawn Ave. The city has leased the ambulance barn since 1986.

Since council president Steve Euton had an excused absence, Councilwoman Samantha Wilhelm, who represents the third ward, ran the meeting Tuesday.

The three-year EMS agreement will provide 24/7 ambulance service for Norwalk. According to city hall documentation, “this agreement shall automatically renew for periods of one year each, commencing April 21, 2022 and April 21, 2023, respectively.” The previous agreement was for 10 years.

An annual “availabilty fee” for the first year will cost the city $85,500, $90,000 the next year and $95,000 in the third year, according to the agreement. It will be billed by North Central EMS and paid by Norwalk “on a monthly basis commencing May 1 of each contract year.”

“The $85,500 is what we’ve been paying the last 10 years,” Norwalk Law Director Stuart O’Hara said last week.

The agreement calls for the creation of a “joint quality assurance control board” with representatives from the city, North Central, Fisher-Titus Affiliated Services, the Norwalk Fire Department and MetroHealth. O’Hara has said has the board, which already has been meeting, will set the quality standards, review how each party is doing and see how the services can be improved.

“The contract does call for annual reports to council from the director of North Central EMS as to what’s going on underneath the agreement. They’ll also be able come to council’s requests,” the law director also told council last week.

Ashley Ballah is the North Central EMS director. Her father-in-law, Don Ballah, retired Oct. 13 as the executive vice president and chief operating officer. He had worked at North Central since its start in 1986.

As part of the agreement, a “back-up ambulance” will be housed at the fire station. Its maintenance and fuel will be the only cost to Norwalk. O’Hara said the squad will respond when North Central EMS cannot arrive in a time set by the board and also will be able to restock the medical supplies of the medical truck used by firefighters.

Chief John Soisson doesn’t expect the ambulance to run often from the station. 

“If it happens a couple times a month, I’d be surprised,” he told council last week. “It’s not going to be there for an ambulance that normally responds. It is there for that unusual circumstance where everything is going to heck in a hand basket. … It depends; if the system is taxed within the city of Norwalk, … yeah, we’ll probably have to bring some extra guys in.”

Firefighters would run the squad in those cases. The vehicle, which has about 150,000 miles on it, will bear the number “511.” All the Norwalk firefighters are trained as emergency medical technicians; seven are paramedics.

Steve Fries, chief financial officer of Fisher-Titus Affiliated Services, told council the ambulance has about the same amount of mileage as many other vehicles in the North Central fleet. 

“We maintain our own vehicles, so we will work with the city on keeping that cost to a minimum,” he said, referring to maintenance expenses.

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