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Commissioners seek bids for ambulatory services, approves motor grader purchase

By A. Marie Hamilton, Sidney Sun-Telegraph

CHEYENNE COUNTY – Cheyenne County Commissioners (CCC) voted to have the county attorney and clerk immediately draft bid requests for a new ambulatory services while it continues to work with Regional West Emergency Medical Services (RWEMS) to provide month-to-month services in the meantime.

At its regularly scheduled meeting on Monday, May 15, CCC held a lengthy discussion with various members of ambulatory and emergency management services around the county and panhandle area to discuss the ongoing decision to end the contract between Sidney Regional West and the county to provide EMT services.

CCC Chairman Darrell Johnson, Vice Chairman Philip Sanders and Commissioner Randal Miller explained the decision from Regional West Interim CEO Mel McNea to not renew ambulance service was not out of malice or any other malignant decision, that the hospital is statutorily required to notify commissioners with a 60 day notice of intent to end the agreement during the renewal duration.

This notification came via a letter read by Cheyenne County Clerk Beth Fiegenschuh during the May 2, CCC meeting. The current agreement with Regional West is due to expire on July 1, and commissioners vowed to take action at its next regularly scheduled meeting on June 5, giving the county nearly a month before its current contract ends, to allow for a smooth transition.

Then called Memorial Health Center (MHC), Sidney Regional Medical Center entered an agreement with the City of Sidney and Cheyenne County to provide ambulance services for both 9-1-1 services and inter-facility transports between regional hospitals in July 2002, as SRMC is the only Level II trauma hospital west of Kearney in the Panhandle.

However, it's not just Cheyenne County experiencing the decision to end ambulatory services for its residents, other nearby counties, such as Keith County, are also affected.

Miller explained that the next hospital board meeting will take place this week and the commissioners expect the board to approve a month-to-month agreement with Cheyenne County while it seeks an appropriate replacement.

Within hours of the commissioners meeting, Cheyenne County Attorney Paul Schaub and Cheyenne County Clerk Fiegenschuh had sent the required legal notice to run in the Sidney Sun-Telegraph that states:

"To: Interested Emergency Medical Service Providers; RE: Request for proposal:

The Cheyenne County Commissioners request proposals (REPs) for emergency transportation services.

If your firm is interested in providing emergency transportation services, we would appreciate receiving a formal proposal from you that includes, but is not limited to:

Director and qualifications, company history (years in business, locations of business and/or headquarters), cost to the city, county and hospital, current service area or areas, and complete list of services that would be offered to the City of Sidney and Cheyenne County."

Additionally, the county attorney and clerk are requesting letters of recommendations and references, a list of communication and ambulance equipment, current scope of services, insurance requirements and information regarding transition and implementation times.

The commissioners and RFP said a current copy of the emergency medical service agreement between the county, City of Sidney and hospital are on file for inspection at the clerk's office for interested companies.

In attendance at the commissioners meeting, regarding the emergency services provider, was Sidney City Manager David Scott, who, after listening to the numerous emergency service providers in attendance and explanation from commissioners said, "I think that's the right path as well."

Adding, "We might want to consider amending the agreement to include a longer notification period to help with any future changes and transitions."

In answering Scott, Miller said he proposed allowing potential service providers to look at the current agreement to provide a framework for the organization to negotiate with the county and city but anticipates they will extend the notification time frame to prevent similar situations in the future.

The hospital and interim emergency services CEO have not publicly stated why it chose to cut ties with its ambulatory services in the area, however, previous Sun-Telegraph stories revealed rural ambulatory services have been running on empty for several years, with low funding, inadequate staffing levels, limited training and other various budget cuts from the economic downturn – which COVID-19 fueled during the pandemic.

Sidney Regional Medical Center CEO Jason Petik later stated the hospital would work with the county in any way it can to ensure a smooth transition to another service provider.

Morrill County EMS Coordinator Shannon Odiet, who spoke before the commissioners as both an EMT and Sidney resident told commissioners it's important to note the current EMT staff have continued to provide services strictly "out of dedication to the community to have emergency services – and I think we need to keep in mind the dedication these individuals have for our community."

More than one unnamed EMT professionals were in attendance and stated the uncertainty of whether or not they will still have a job come July 1 has a lot of staff on edge, however, they remain dedicated to providing the county with exceptional emergency services.

To which, Miller responded by saying commissioners are working to find a nearby, Panhandle area service provider who would be willing to hire the current workers to continue services as the hospitals ambulatory service dissolves.

Commissioners also heard from Cheyenne County Tourism Director Kendra Mitchell, who presented three grants the tourism board approved earlier this month to be finalized by the county commissioners.

The first grant was for $4,525 to be paid to the Cheyenne County Chamber for it's free summer music series in Hickory Square. According to Mitchell, it's roughly $1,500 less than the Chamber requested last summer.

Also reduced from last year, Mitchell presented commissioners with a $3,200 request from Gold Rush organizers, which she stated is bringing back some classic events it previously has not held in most recent years, such as the gun fighters show, bus tours out to Sidney Boot Hill and the Fort Sidney Museum.

Lastly, Mitchell presented a grant request from the Potter Carbowl for $5,000, which is up from last year in which the village requested $4,000. However, due to the popularity of the event, the tourism board approved the request, pending commissioners approval.

Ultimately, commissioners approved all three tourism grants presented by Mitchell. A fourth grant, which was not presented to commissioners, but was discussed during the regularly scheduled tourism board meeting will be detailed in another Sun-Telegraph story.

The county clerk opened two sealed bids for the purchase of a motor grader; one from Nebraska Machinery out of Scottsbluff, which contained two bids for two different graders, and a second one from Murphy Tractor and Equipment Company out of Gering, which also contained two bids for two different graders.

Nebraska Machinery offered two Caterpillar graders, one brand new for $341,890 and another 2014 model for $162,500. Meanwhile, Murphy offered two used John Deere units, both 2015, for $145,000 and $142,000 respectively.


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