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County prevails in fight over ambulance

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By David Giuliani

Two months ago, the County Commission chose a new company to provide ambulance services to the county’s unincorporated areas.

The divorce with the old company wasn’t a happy one.

On Wednesday, the county got a court order giving it immediate possession of an ambulance the county contended that it had purchased in 2004 with $50,000 in public funds. The county had let Rocky Mountain use the ambulance during the period of their agreement. But the company hadn’t given it back.

The county showed state District Court that it had title to the ambulance.

Under state law, the county could get the immediate return of the ambulance if it demonstrated that it owned it and provided a bond pledging funds double the value of the ambulance, or $100,000.

District Judge Eugenio Mathis found that the county met the requirements and ordered the Sheriff’s Department to get the ambulance back for the county.

County Attorney Jesus Lopez said Rocky Mountain employees at first told the Sheriff’s Department that they didn’t know where the key was. Soon after, however, they found it, Lopez said. The ambulance was then taken to the county’s public works department, he said.

The county went to court more than two weeks after it sent a letter to Rocky Mountain demanding the ambulance’s return.

At their February meeting, county commissioners unanimously voted for Albuquerque-based Superior Ambulance as the new emergency medical services provider, which ended a process that lasted for years. Both the city and the county complained about the performance of Rocky Mountain, the current ambulance service; the city remains with Rocky Mountain.

At the meeting, Kevin Kearney of Rocky Mountain warned that the county may regret its decision. He said Superior may well leave after a year, once it realizes that the call volume — one a day — was so low.

County Manager Les Montoya said the county hasn’t decided what to do with the ambulance. It may give it to one of the county’s fire districts, he said.

On Thursday, he said he would provide a statement to the Optic on the county’s latest action. He hadn’t as of press time.