New Ambulance Purchase OK’d In Resort

OCEAN CITY — Despite some last-minute concerns about going with a smaller chassis, resort officials this week approved the purchase of a new ambulance at around $260,000, or about $30,000 less than what was anticipated.

During the fiscal year 2019 budget deliberations, funding was included for the purchase of a new ambulance, but questions remained about the size and the various features of the new acquisition. Procurement Manager Catrice Parsons and staff were directed to go back to solicit competitive bids on the new ambulance and review different options on size, safety features and off-road ability, for example.

During Tuesday’s work session, Parsons presented the results of that research and recommended purchasing a slightly smaller ambulance than the town has purchased in recent years, but with a significant amount of savings. The cost of the ambulance recommended for purchase on Tuesday came in at $259,394, while the cost of the larger unit was estimated at $290,000.

Parsons said the research included working with the town’s emergency services staff to ensure the smaller ambulance meets their needs. She also reached out to neighboring jurisdictions to see what size ambulance they were using and how much they were paying for them.

“We reached out to Berlin and Salisbury and they are using a similar-sized ambulance that they paid in the range of $280,000 to $290,000,” she said. “We priced one at around $289,000, but this low bid is just around $259,000.

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Councilman Dennis Dare said the proposed ambulance purchase on the table on Tuesday had a Ford F-550 chassis and questioned if it was big enough and sturdy enough to meet the town’s needs.

“The F-550 is not a medium-duty truck,” he said. “It’s really a light-duty truck. It’s the Ford F-series with a beefed-up frame. We used them in the 80s and 90s and they served us fine, but we only got six or seven years out them.”

Dare, the former city manager, questioned if the similar lifespan could be expected for the ambulance recommended for purchase on Tuesday and also the maintenance and other costs associated with it.

“I’m afraid going with the lighter-duty truck means we’ll be replacing them more often,” he said. “We may save a little on the initial cost, but it could end up costing us more. I think it’s a mistake. I think we should stick with the medium-duty truck that has served us well. It’s not just the bigger frame, it’s bigger brakes, bigger transmission and everything else.”

Councilman Wayne Hartman said if the staff was comfortable with the suggested purchase and it met the town’s size and safety needs, he could support going with the Ford F-550.

“This is something we haven’t used,” he said. “It’s a totally different animal then what we’ve used in the past. There is no comparison to the F-350.”

Hartman asked if the new ambulance would be put into rotation with the existing ambulances of various sizes and features.

“Is this going to be put in regular circulation, or is it going to be used as a power unit?” he said. “What was the feedback from the staff? Is his something other fire companies have gone to?”

Parsons assured the council the proposed purchase met all the town’s specifications. Councilman Matt James said Dare’s concerns about the size of the brakes and transmission were likely unfounded.

“Brakes and transmission are all relative to the body size,” he said. “I can’t imagine Ford would put out a product that can’t live up to expectations.”

The council voted 6-1 with Dare opposed to approve the purchase.

About The Author: Shawn Soper

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Shawn Soper has been with The Dispatch since 2000. He began as a staff writer covering various local government beats and general stories. His current positions include managing editor and sports editor. Growing up in Baltimore before moving to Ocean City full time three decades ago, Soper graduated from Loch Raven High School in 1981 and from Towson University in 1985 with degrees in mass communications with a journalism concentration and history.