Officials approve contract with new company for north Brewster County ambulance services

The move finalizes Emergent Air as the new EMS provider for Alpine, Marathon and the surrounding parts of northern Brewster County. The area’s former, decades-long ambulance company shut down in January after the death of its owner, Mike Scudder.

A view of Alpine, Texas in April 2022. (Travis Bubenik / Marfa Public Radio)

By Travis Bubenik

Local officials have finalized a months-long effort to secure a new emergency medical services provider for northern Brewster County, after the area’s longtime ambulance company shut down in January.

On Tuesday, both the Alpine City Council and Brewster County commissioners voted at separate public meetings to approve an initial two-year contract with El Paso-based Emergent Air, the company that both local governments selected last month as the area’s new ambulance company.

Under the terms of the deal, the city will pay the company about $161,000 each year, while the county will pay about $190,000 annually. The joint contract limits any increase in those prices to 8% after the initial two-year term.

Walter Kuykendall, Program Manager for Emergent Air, said the company is geared up to take over ambulance services this weekend.

“We’re ready to go come Sunday morning,” he said.

Though officials voted to approve the joint agreement as presented, aside from a few typos that were expected to be corrected, the final approval wasn’t entirely without controversy.

Alpine City Council member Chris Rodriguez, the only official with either local government to vote against the contract, expressed concern with the agreement’s language being too vague on how much the new ambulance company could charge residents.

“I just want to be sure that we keep ambulance fees affordable,” she said. “Inflation rates are going up, and income rates are not keeping up.”

At Tuesday’s meeting, Kuykendall assured Rodriguez that the prices the company can charge for ambulance rides – though varied depending on what kind of insurance a person has – are limited to an extent through a federal law that bans “surprise” medical emergency bills.

As Emergency Air takes over emergency services in north Brewster County, Terlingua’s EMS crew will return to only covering the county’s southern half. The Terlingua team had been helping to fill the void in the Alpine and Marathon areas under a temporary agreement.

The new contract requires Emergent Air to have at least four certified EMS workers on duty 24/7 and to maintain at least two ambulances “in clean, sanitary and good mechanical condition at all times.” The agreement also requires the company to file monthly reports to officials detailing things like how many 911 calls came in from across the region and what types of emergencies the calls were for.

After the initial two-year contract term, which expires in March 2024, the agreement gives the company and local officials the option of renewing the deal each year for three more years with “the same terms, covenants and conditions.”

Brewster County Judge Eleazar Cano expressed confidence in the deal on Tuesday.

“The company has spent a considerable amount of money on capital,” he said. “I think their commitment to their charge is pretty high.”

Kuykendall said Emergent Air is finalizing graphic design proposals for the signage on its local ambulances that will be submitted to county commissioners and Alpine’s city council for approval at a later date.

About Travis Bubenik

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