Questionable Donor Enthusiasm for Potential COS Emergency Services Enterprise

Colorado Springs Mayor Yemi Mobolade and Colorado Springs Fire Department (CSFD) Chief Randy Royal have a new project on their plate. They want to start a new Colorado Springs Emergency Services Enterprise.  

Over the years, we’ve followed the criticism of the privately-owned ambulance service, American Medical Response (AMR). Criticisms have largely focused almost exclusively on delayed response times to emergencies. As a consequence, there are annual rumblings about the city not renewing the city’s contract with AMR to provide ambulance services in Colorado Springs. Prior to AMR providing emergency services, El Paso County provided emergency services. The first AMR contract was signed in 2013. That contract aimed for 8-minute response times in areas that were only seeing 12-minute response times. Since then, a repeated criticism of AMR has been their inability to meet contractual obligations related to response time.

Back in 2018, former Mayor John Suthers commented to the Gazette, “It’s not that AMR is the greatest thing on the face of the Earth, trust me,” Suthers said. “Our choices aren’t very good.” Throughout the COVID pandemic, response times understandably worsened. Since then, private ambulance businesses have been operating with increasing difficulties to such an extent that they may be in danger of disappearing altogether.

Still, Colorado Springs has continued contracting ambulance services out to AMR. Under the current contract, AMR is required to respond 90% of the time to emergency calls within 8-16 minutes, depending on the location. They’ve failed to meet the mark and the Colorado Springs Fire Department (CSFD) often arrives first to emergency calls because they are in closer proximity to the emergencies.

We first heard about a potential Emergency Services Enterprise in March. One of our loyal readers reached out about his concerns and the secrecy surrounding a private meeting at the El Pomar house. The meeting was reportedly held to discuss the city’s existing AMR contract as well as to explore other options, including a government-run ambulance service to replace AMR.

El Pomar staff reported that presidents and CEOs of local companies were invited to the meeting. Among those in attendance were Colorado Springs Mayor Yemi Mobolade and CSFD Chief Randy Royal. The public wasn’t welcome. Hearing that you aren’t allowed to know what’s going on immediately sent up red flags for us at Springs Taxpayers United. We filed a Colorado Open Records Act (CORA) request to get the email communications from the people coordinating the secret meeting between private businesses and government leaders.

A 2-page handout created by Chief Royal was given to the meeting’s attendees. In summary, CSFD wants to set up an Emergency Services Enterprise as a business enterprise for the City of Colorado Springs. They expect to start out with 5 sworn employees and 150 civilian employees. They would provide ambulance transport services to citizens for medical emergencies.

The Emergency Services Enterprise would allegedly generate revenue from fees charged for services. Meeting attendees were asked to be investors in the form of a grant and/or a loan. The city needs $5 million total to get the enterprise off the ground. They plan to acquire and use ambulances and related equipment through a financial arrangement known as a capital lease valued at $7.5 million.

What’s the problem?

Based on our investigation, potential donors weren’t enthusiastic about attending the March 18th meeting. One week prior, only 11 people had confirmed they would attend the meeting and most were El Pomar staff. Concern about the lack of attendees prompted El Pomar employees to request outreach from both the mayor and CSFD chief for the secret meeting.  

Who attended and who declined the private meeting invitation?

 ACCEPTED 
First Name:Last Name:Company:
JoshBaileyBloom Foundation
BarryBaumConsultant – City of Colorado Springs
MattCarpenterEl Pomar Foundation
CariDavisColorado Springs Health Foundation
MikeEdmondsColorado Springs School
KevinFarleyPikes Peak Community Foundation
NechieHallEl Pomar Foundation
ErinHannanEl Pomar
BartHoladayDakota Foundation
KyleHyblEl Pomar Foundation
DollyKastLyda Hill Philanthropies
MaureenLawrenceEl Pomar Foundation
DebMahanGazette Charities Foundation/Anschutz
JanMartinLyda Hill Philanthropies
JaymeMcConnellogueColorado Springs Fire Dept
CharaeMcDanielCity of Colorado Springs
YemiMoboladeCity of Colorado Springs
CharlesReeseThe Colorado Health Foundation
RandyRoyalColorado Springs Fire Dept
YemiSanchezCity of Colorado Springs
RyanTrujilloCity of Colorado Springs
DaveRyanAnschutz Foundation
 DECLINED 
ChristianAnschutzWestern Develepmont Corp.
LauraBlackburnLane Foundation
HeatherCarolEdmonson Foundation
MaxCuppPikes Peak Community Foundation
MargaretDolanPikes Peak Community Foundation
LydaHillLyda Hill Philanthropies
ChrisJenkinsNorwood Foundation
JimJohnsonGE Johnson Construction
PhilLaneLane Foundaiton
KathyLooLoo Foundation
DavidLordDavid Lord Charitable Foundation
ElaineMartinezEl Pomar Foundation
PamShockley-Zalabak(Former Colorado Springs Mayor)
JohnSuthersLyda Hill Philanthropies
ThayerTuttEl Pomar Foundation
AbelWurmnestAnschutz Family Foundation

Our Take

Colorado Springs already has their own problems with emergency response times. The Colorado Springs Police Department (CSPD) takes over 16 minutes to respond to emergency calls. Who are they to focus on AMR and not mention CSPD’s issues with response times?

An Emergency Services Enterprise is a massive undertaking. We’re skeptical that government can do a better job than AMR. One only needs to look at CSPD’s response times to see reasons for skepticism that a government-run ambulance service will provide improved response times to emergencies.

We envision taxpayer dollars finding their way into the coffers of this new enterprise-likely in the form of a grant or some other award. They will figure out a way for all of us to financially support it. They’ve done it with the Stormwater Enterprise. Not only do you pay a stormwater fee every month, but your federal taxpayer dollars have been awarded to the enterprise through federal grant awards.

Colorado Springs City Council and the public were supposed to be briefed about the potential change to ambulance services on April 8th. It didn’t happen. We’ll keep watch to see if any donors stepped up with some cash to get this enterprise off the ground. We’re leery of anything government-run. We would prefer to have private businesses undertake ambulance services and for city officials to figure out how to work with AMR to improve emergency response times.

3 thoughts on “Questionable Donor Enthusiasm for Potential COS Emergency Services Enterprise

  1. I’m almost embarrassed for you at the “who are they to focus on AMR” line! The idea that problems with CSPD prevent city officials looking at problems with AMR is ridiculous, and brings into question the whole concept of this group!

    The city is paying a private business (AMR) to provide a service and that business is failing to deliver.

    You said it yourself: CSFD often arrives first. So maybe running the ambulance service like CSFD is a better idea than handing taxpayer money to a commercial company?

    Or maybe not. We’d need to see the details first, and this article conspicuously fails to provide the.

    1. AMR receives ZERO tax payer money from the city of Colorado Springs and instead pays the city 1.2 million dollars annually for the pleasure of serving the city’s residents and visitors. They also face financial penalties for non-compliance with their contract. I am not saying that their performance should not be scrutinized, but comparing them to entities that are WHOLLY tax payer funded is a false equivalence. AMR is held accountable for their performance, why are the tax payer funded agencies not?

  2. I, too, am leery of government enterprises and instead the city should work with AMR to improve response times or hire another private company. Through personal experience, I do have serious concerns about AMR. My husband had a stroke at 3:00 AM in November. Thankfully, he was awake and we were able to call for medical attention. AMR actually responded very fast; however, due to this culture of equal gender rights there were two females on the ambulance, who were unable to move my husband from the floor to treat him. They had to wait for the fire fighters to arrive to move my husband. That took longer than it should have because the fire fighters at the station a mile away were on another call. If AMR cannot have enough ambulances for timely response times AND cannot staff their ambulances with personnel capable of moving patients without the assistance of firefighters, the city should, at a minimum, hire a second private ambulance company. AMR should no longer have an exclusive contract.

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