Lodi's legal fight with San Joaquin County over emergency service dispatching continues to drag on even after a Grand Jury told the parties to stop bickering.
Lodi is currently in confidential negotiations with the county, Deputy City Attorney Janice Magdich said Tuesday. If a resolution is not reached by the end of the month, it is scheduled to go to trial next year, she said.
The Lodi City Council is expected to approve a response to the Grand Jury report on Wednesday.
In May 2006, San Joaquin County contracted with American Medical Response to dispatch 911 calls. The county told cities to switch over; Stockton, Manteca and Lodi refused, and the county sued the three holdout cities.
Lodi has had a contract with the Stockton Fire Department for seven years to dispatch medical and fire calls.
"What we've had with Stockton has been excellent service," Lodi Fire Chief Mike Pretz said.
During the past year, emergency medical land line calls from Lodi have gone to Stockton where they are routed to AMR's LifeCom dispatch center in Salida via computer. LifeCom in turn dispatches the ambulances.
Stockton still handles Lodi's fire dispatch, and Lodi Police Department dispatches police cars. Emergency cell phone calls are answered by California Highway Patrol and are routed to LifeCom.
Lodi, Stockton and Manteca have complained about AMR's response time to the County Emergency Medical Services Office.
The Grand Jury investigated AMR and the cities' squabble with the county. In its report released in June, the Grand Jury said: "It's time for all the agencies to set aside their differences … and to work together on improving emergency medical and fire dispatch in San Joaquin County."
The San Joaquin County Grand Jury recently found that American Medical Response, the contractor the county uses, is doing a fast, reliable job.
Public safety officials, however, say private companies like AMR shouldn't be dispatching emergency services. It's more expensive for the taxpayer, for one, and agencies such as the Stockton Fire Department know best how to handle emergencies.
- News-Sentinel staff.
Magdich said the city will respond to the Grand Jury as required by law, but would not issue a full report because the litigation is ongoing.
Dan Burch, county EMS administrator, said the AMR contract has been successful in the first year, save for the three holdout cities. AMR's performance is reviewed monthly, he said, and ambulance response time has been the highest in Lodi with an average response time of just less than four minutes for March and April.
"The system overall is working very well," he said. "We're trying to do what's best for patient care."
Pretz said the city has the right to determine who dispatches emergency services. Stockton Fire's dispatching is $5 cheaper per 911 call than AMR, he said. Both dispatchers cost about $19 for fire calls and $9 for medical calls, but AMR's service carries a $5 radio operator fee per call, he said.
"(Stockton Fire) is more efficient and less expensive than any private company," he said.
AMR is awaiting the outcome of the city and county litigation and is prepared to offer full dispatching services to Lodi, AMR spokesman Jason Sorrick said.
"We would like to move forward and have everyone using our services," he said. "If Lodi chooses to use AMR, we're willing and able to provide those services."