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|Legal issue still plagues OCOG ambulance contract|
The Ouachita Council of Governments' legal staff will move toward finalizing its contract to establish a sole ambulance provider for Ouachita Parish.
That announcement was made by OCOG attorney Jay Mitchell during OCOG's regular meeting Monday.
In May 2007, OGOG selected American Medical Response to serve as Ouachita Parish's sole ambulance provider.
The contract the parish and AMR has not been finalized since nine rural ambulance providers filed a lawsuit in 4th Judicial District Court stop the contract from becoming effective.
The ambulance companies claimed OCOG's ambulance ordinance infringed upon their "free speech and lawful commerce as it seeks to limit the ability to advertise for services."
The nine rural ambulance services in the surrounding parishes also took issue with a provision in the OCOG ambulance ordinance, which says all trips that originate in Ouachita Parish must be conducted by the sole ambulance provider.
A 4th District Court ruled in favor of OCOG last year, but the attorney for the rural ambulance companies filed an appeal with the Second Circuit Court of Appeal.
Mitchell said Monday the court of appeal upheld the district court's ruling.
"The judgment, however, is not final yet, and the plaintiffs have asked the Louisiana Supreme Court for a writ," Mitchell said. "If they do take a writ, I believe given the time of the year, that it will probably be the fall before the Louisiana Supreme Court issues a decision whether or not to take the case … probably in September."
"Before the hearing with the court of appeal, we worked with AMR to polish up the contract, and we're going to get together (this week) and go back through the contract to make sure everyone at the local level has all their i's dotted and their t's crossed," Mitchell continued. "Hopefully within the next month we'll be able to ratify the contract and move forward."
The plaintiffs in the lawsuit against OCOG are MedLife Emergency Medical Services; Advanced Emergency Medical Services; Claiborne Ambulance Service; D'Arbonne Ambulance Service; East Carroll Ambulance; Jackson Parish Ambulance Service, Northeast Louisiana Ambulance Service; Pafford Emergency Medical Services; and West Carroll Parish Ambulance Service.
Also during Monday's meeting, OCOG approved its operating budget for the new fiscal year, which begins July 1.
The $425,876 budget includes a $73,478 increase over the current budget due to additional federal highway money. The additional federal funding can be used for local projects.
To access the federal funding, the three local governmental agencies that make up OCOG must provide matching funds.
The police jury will be required to pay $7,228. The city of Monroe would have to put up $5,425, and the city of West Monroe's portion would be $1,391.