Despite protests, Alton signs agreement with Palmview for emergency medical services

After nearly seven years with Hidalgo County EMS, the city of Alton voted Tuesday to receive emergency medical services from the city of Palmview beginning next week.

Prior to unanimously voting on this decision, representatives from Hidalgo County EMS questioned the validity of the agreement, and if Palmview would be able to serve both cities.

Alton LOGOUnder this interlocal agreement, Alton will house a Palmview EMS vehicle in their fire station that will be staffed by a minimum of two crew members every day.

“We’re very comfortable with this arrangement,” City Manager Jeff Underwood said after the meeting. “Our current agreement with Hidalgo County EMS is expiring in the next few days so we wanted to see our options. We feel with Palmview we can do better.”

Underwood added that both cities would equally share the revenues made from the EMS services.

With this agreement, this will be the first time Palmview’s EMS provides service to a neighboring city.

The decision to switch services with Palmview, which has in-house services that began January of last year, was met with skepticism Tuesday from representatives with Hidalgo County EMS who attended the meeting.

Paul Vazaldua spoke out during the public comments portion of the meeting and pointed out how Palmview only has two EMS vehicles and regularly partners with a private company to serve the community as backup.

“Joining with Palmview, an EMS provider with little experience and resources, should be a concern with this council,” Vazaldua said. “Service will be provided by Scripture EMS services, a private company who we know little about in a backdoor deal with a company who has never engaged in a 911 EMS service contract before.”

Vazaldua also pointed out that the city of Alton never submitted a Request for Proposal to receive competitive bid offers from other EMS services for the city to vote on and discuss.

“It’s a sneaky way for Palmview to get into business without competitively bidding for it,” Vazaldua said after the meeting. “Though there is an attorney general ruling saying that cities can be exempt from the procurement process, it should be used only in emergencies and this is the only city I’ve seen using that exemption. It cheats the residents of Alton even though it is legal.”

Michael Leo, Palmview City Manager, said that since Alton is entering into an interlocal agreement with Palmview, there was no need for an RFP since the procurement process is not required between cities.

“We started the in-house EMS to provide the highest level of quality care to our constituents and Alton recognized that,” Leo said. “That’s why these discussions to enter an agreement started.”

Kenneth Ponce, an employee with Hidalgo County EMS pointed out that as Alton’s current provider, Hidalgo County EMS has the manpower to serve the city and will soon start to provide helicopter services for ease of transportation.”

“The nearest hospital is 25 minutes from here, that would be something that will assist the area,” Monte said. “You should consider what you’re doing…please take that into consideration.”

Though Underwood said he didn’t take these concerns lightly, he still recommended the city council approve the agreement.

“We’re not skirting procurement rules, we made sure we’re in compliance with the law,” Underwood said. “That’s why we moved forward tonight, to make sure service is better than what we’re getting and continue to be in compliance.”

Services will begin at midnight, April 7. Currently, the city still has a contract with the county for Hidalgo County EMS to serve the area outside Alton city limits.

“There’s no animosity, we just felt for our city this was the best move,” Underwood said.

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