Traverse City News and Events

City To Tackle Ambulance, Volleyball Court, Collapsed Sewer Contracts

By Beth Milligan | Dec. 5, 2022

Traverse City commissioners will vote tonight on approving contracts for multiple city programs and projects, including a three-year contract extension with Mobile Medical Response (MMR) for city ambulance services, construction work to expand the downtown volleyball courts, and a contract for emergency repairs to a collapsed sewer main near Washington and Wellington streets.

Commissioners will consider approving a three-year agreement with MMR for continued medical transport services in the city. The city previously hired consulting firm TriData LLC to study whether it would be feasible for the Traverse City Fire Department to take over providing first-response ambulance services for the city, rather than contract with an outside provider. North Flight began serving as the primary ambulance provider for Traverse City in 2002, with the fire department becoming outfitted in 2008 to serve as a secondary transport option. In 2020, North Flight merged with MMR, which took over the ambulance contract with Traverse City.

A commission ad hoc committee is still evaluating recommendations made by TriData for the future of the fire department, including both its operational model and its facilities. In the meantime, TriData made multiple suggestions in its report that city staff have worked to negotiate into a new contract with MMR. Those include outfitting ambulances with automatic vehicle locators (AVLs) and using Crew Force, the same software use by Grand Traverse County 911 Dispatch. Having MMR on the same software will “allow data collection to be compared on an apples-to-apples basis, including incident type, 911 and dispatch times, location, response time intervals, time of arrival at patient, change in priority status, and other data as designated by the fire chief,” according to Assistant City Manager Penny Hill.

The contract will also require MMR to attend quarterly contract compliance review meetings with the fire chief and pay a $250 fee if MMR arrives on scene with only one person in the ambulance or if the city has to perform an advanced life support intercept. Those tightened terms are partly in response to TriData findings showing that contractors previously failed for several years running to meet required contractual terms, such as standards for response times. The new agreement requires MMR to respond to 90 percent of calls in under nine minutes, as calculated on a two-month basis for emergency calls in the city.

The MMR contract is at no cost to the city. MMR recovers its expenses from fees billed to patients for using ambulance services. If an individual fails to pay, MMR is liable for that cost, not the city, according to the contract terms. If approved, the contract would go through November 2025. Either the city or MMR can terminate the agreement at any time with 180 days written notice.

Commissioners tonight will consider approving a construction contract to expand the downtown volleyball courts. Two major projects have been long-discussed and recently approved by the city Parks and Recreation commission for the volleyball courts at West End. One is replacing the court sand, a project that was completed earlier this year. The other is adding two new courts directly west of the existing six courts off Grandview Parkway. Volleyball players say the new courts will help alleviate the intense competition for playing space in the summer among leagues and recreational users, with nearly 700 local players using the courts on a weekly basis.

In July, commissioners approved issuing a request-for-proposals (RFP) to find a contractor to oversee the court expansion. The RFP amount was not-to-exceed $60,000. Elmer’s Crane and Dozer was the sole bidder on the project at $57,852. Staff are recommending hiring Elmer’s for the project, which will include “furnishing all materials, equipment, and labor for the complete installation of two new sand volleyball courts,” according to Parks and Recreation Superintendent Michelle Hunt. Funds for the project are available in the city’s capital projects fund, though summer volleyball also helps generate revenue, according to Hunt. This past year, revenue from the volleyball program was approximately $15,000.

Commissioners will also vote tonight on paying Elmer’s for emergency work that was completed in October to a collapsed sewer main on Wellington Street just south of Washington Street. According to a memo from Justin Roy, water/wastewater maintenance superintendent, a sinkhole appeared on Wellington Street on October 6. The following day, staff discovered that a section of 15-inch clay sanitary sewer line – which dates back to 1945 – had collapsed.

“We determined that instead of a quick spot repair, the best long-term repair was to replace the old clay pipe from the manhole to the previously installed PVC pipe near the collapse,” Roy wrote. “Due to the time of year and limited timeframe with asphalt plants about to close for the winter, it was declared an emergency and needed to be repaired right away.” Repair work began October 17 and included installing 50 feet of new 15-inch PVC pipe. Workers also had to remove and replace approximately 50 feet of 10-inch water main, noting that because of the water line’s close proximity to the sewer line, its integrity would’ve been compromised during excavation otherwise.

“No customers were directly affected by the removal of the water main or replacement of the sewer line,” Roy wrote. “The weather didn’t help the situation, but they were able to complete the underground repairs and put the road and sidewalks back together just in time for Halloween.” Commissioners will vote on approving a $75,274.46 service order to Elmer’s for the work, with costs to be covered 50-50 from the city’s water and sewer funds.

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