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College Station City Council takes stance on fire and EMS agreement with city of Bryan

Jan 26, 2024

College Station set a $550 reimbursement rate for calls in the Bryan city limits as talks continue to forge a new interlocal agreement between the two cities for emergency calls.

The College Station City Council has reached a stance on the previously debated interlocal agreement with the city of Bryan for fire and EMS services to both cities.

During last Monday night's meeting, the council unanimously approved an interlocal agreement with the city of Bryan for fire and EMS automatic and mutual aid. The deal reduces Bryan's reliance on College Station's EMS resources and provides an annual payment of $550 per EMS run for the difference between aid given and received, according to city staff.

During a March 9 meeting, the council voted 6-1 — with Councilman William Wright against — to authorize staff to continue working with the city of Bryan toward a new interlocal agreement for fire and emergency medical services.

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City staff stated that discussions with the Bryan Fire Department have been ongoing since June 2021 to revise the interlocal agreement that's been in place since 1997. In November, the College Station council unanimously voted to terminate the existing agreement because it found that the cities were not equally operating available resources for EMS calls.

Under that newly expired agreement, automatic aid was utilized for all fire and EMS calls, which meant an ambulance or truck would be sent to the call location based on the closest fire station, regardless of city boundaries.

During a March 3 Bryan City Council meeting, Bryan Fire Department leaders proposed a revised mutual aid agreement. DJ Capener, assistant chief of EMS for the BFD, presented the proposal to the council and went over the reasoning for a new agreement. During a Feb. 9 College Station council meeting, College Station Fire Chief Richard Mann further explained the need for a new agreement because of a 4-to-1 discrepancy in dispatched EMS calls into Bryan.

Capener said previously he believes the reasoning for the discrepancy is due to the location of College Station Fire Station No. 6, which is close to the Bryan-Cololege Station border. However, after viewing Bryan's council meeting, Mann said that Station No. 6 was not ‘ill conceived’ as suggested by the city of Bryan, but needed for the growing area of the Northgate district on University Drive and that they were not only responding at the border but deeper into Bryan city limits.

Jeff Kersten, College Station's chief financial officer, presented a breakdown of costs which showed how much College Station taxpayers are having to make up for the differences in unpaid EMS services by Bryan patients due to College Station ambulances being sent to Bryan.

"We are receiving money through ambulance revenues that we get as patients receive service and are billed. We receive about $2.7 million. Keep in mind though that we bill probably close to $9 million or so on an annual basis. So we are receiving about a third or so of that in revenues that we look at in our budget," Kersten said. "If we allocate a portion of that cost for the city responses that are going into Bryan, it is a little under $500,000 is where we estimate that particular number is. In terms of the EMS service that we receive, in [FY]22 we received about $178,000. Keep in mind we billed about $517,000, but we received that lower amount of $178,000 and so the balance of that — at about $309,000 or about 63% of that total cost — was paid for by College Station taxpayers."

In response to the discrepancy, CSFD previously proposed to BFD a financial reimbursement of 100% to make up the difference through a "true-up agreement." During the March 3 Bryan City Council meeting, the BFD instead proposed it pay CSFD $240 per transport of College Station EMS services into Bryan.

Capener previously told The Eagle that the $240 breakdown equates to $50 for each of the two paramedics, $100 for supplies and $40 an hour for the ambulance itself.

During the recent College Station City Council meeting on Monday, College Station Assistant Fire Chief Robert Mumford told the council how they came up with the new proposed plan that will be entertained by Bryan City Council in the coming weeks.

"We have had those discussions with staff to propose an interlocal agreement we think is fair and equitable between both entities," he said. "The automatic aid agreement that we recommended was to incorporate automatic aid of the closest available resource for high acuity EMS and fire incidents for the Delta and Echo level responses. And then incorporating mutual aid for our low acuity calls when all resources are exhausted and the requesting department has adequate capacity. The third thing we will incorporate is an annual financial adjustment for EMS incidents of $550 per incident for the difference between automatic aid given and received."

Mumford said this item will go for consideration to the Bryan City Council on June 13, following the approval by College Station.

During the discussion, Councilman Bob Yancy wanted clarification that this is still going to be a shortfall relative to breakeven for the city of College Station.

"I believe Chief Financial Officer [Jeff] Kersten had told us previously about $1,830 was breakeven," he said. "This is going to constitute about a $663 shortfall if we add the $617 that we get on average from these runs for Medicare and Medicaid, private insurance and private pay, all in $617; we add the $550 and we ding that off the $1,830, it is still a shortfall right? We are kind of meeting in the middle here?"

Mumford said in response there is still a shortfall that the citizens of College Station would have to absorb or subsidize for.

"With the numbers we came up with, on average about $1,263 [goes into] a target call. Out of that we collect about $569 through those processes of collection, and so our agreement with the city of Bryan hopefully would be to subsidize from the $550 received from either party, which comes out to about a $144 shortfall that the citizens would have to absorb," he said. "Now keep in mind, that works both ways as well. We have seen the numbers decrease from all of the implementations that the city of Bryan and the Bryan Fire Department have made operational changes. We have worked collaboratively with them over the last year and a half on making those adjustments from the response and the resources we provided and the changes they have made as well."

Councilman Dennis Maloney said he was on the council that approved Fire Station #6, and the reason they picked that location was because the fire chief at that time wanted it there.

"The reason why is because it is a straight shot up to Veterans Park; it is a straight shot down to campus and more importantly we only had one grade separation for [FM]2818. In order to get to a airport if there was a major catastrophe, that was the only way to go was [State] Highway 60," he said. "It was never our intention to service any other city. But I am glad that the city of Bryan is aware of the needs of their citizens and that they want take that on and they are working very hard to take care of it. They have already done a triage of policy changes, and ultimately I am sure they will finally put a fire station south of Villa Maria once again."

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