6-18-2013 News

A lively night of meetings involving subcommittees of the Manchester Board of Mayor and Aldermen took place last night at City Hall.  The showpiece debate took place at the Committee on Administration as it considered Fire Chief James Burkush’s recommendation that the city’s new emergency ambulance service be awarded to American Medical Response, the city‘s current provider.  A M R has been on the hot seat in recent months after mounting complaints led to the discovery of serious billing errors, which caused the company to refund nearly half a million dollars in overcharged fees and caused local politicians to demand the company establish a local customer service operation and come to terms with Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield on a service contract.

Alderman at Large Dan O’Neil, a member of the ambulance contract review committee, who recently threatened to notify the Attorney General’s office of the billing issues, implying criminality at one point, supported Chief Burkush’s recommendation saying that since the company opened the customer service office in Manchester, secured the agreement with Anthem and cleaned the management house, the number of complaints he’s received has gone down.  He claimed that the recent issues raised by the International Association of Fire Fighters, which we broke the story on yesterday, had no affect on his decision.

Ward 4 Alderman Jim Roy, also a member of the ambulance committee and a retired fire fighter, testified before the Administration Committee in opposition to the chief’s recommendation.  Roy said the letters that the I A F F complained about weren’t part of American Ambulance’s bid packet and should never have been included in the materials given to the committee.  He said that A M R failed to disclose legal and contract termination issues required by the ambulance bid and earned a zero on that part of the bid evaluation as a result, which should have disqualified them.  He read a laundry list of multimillion dollar fines the company’s paid related to its billing practices and asked the committee whether or not any of it sounded familiar.

Girard at Large has had extensive conversations with several committee members, including Chief Burkush, obtained several internal documents which raise a number of questions regarding the process and the recommendation.  We will, of course, discuss all of this this morning.  (Here are the internal docs: 
Ambulance Committee meeting draft minutes 6-13-2013 before recommendations were scrubbed from final draftAmerican Ambulance Evaluation Sheet, CarePlus Evaluation SheetAmerican Medical Response Evaluation SheetComparative Selection Criteria vendor score sheet.)

The news continues after this.

In other business last night, the Committee on Administration heard an appeal from the Manchester VFW post to have its poker machine license fees refunded as the person who applied for them did so without authorization and they’d removed the machines.  The request was tabled.  They also approved a pilot program that will allow street vendors to operate in the Verizon Wireless Concession Protection Zone between the hours of 10 pm and 2 am.  The Committee on Lands and Buildings heard from a developer that wants to build student housing on the Pearl Street Parking Lot.  The high rise structure would house some twelve hundred area college students.  The committee directed city staff to begin negotiation on a letter of intent to define the terms of a potential deal.

Our good friend, Strafford County Superior Court Judge John Lyons has struck again.  The man who struck down parts of New Hampshire’s voter registration laws enabling people who are not, and do not intend to be residents, to register and vote has now determined that the law providing tax credits to businesses who contribute to privately funded and run nonprofit scholarship funds for low income families violates the state’s constitution on the grounds that it provides tax dollars to religious schools.  Governor Maggie Hassan practically wet herself in joy over the ruling.  The Democrat whose husband is Head Master of the state’s elite Phillips Exeter Academy, a private school, hailed the decision depriving families of the K through twelve scholarship opportunities as good for public education.  The Network for Educational Opportunity, Cornerstone Policy Research and the state Republican Party condemned the decision as a disaster for parents seeking a better education for their kids and questioned how a program that doesn’t fund religious schools violates the constitution by not funding them.  Let’s hope this one gets to the Supreme Court and they get it right.

That’s news from our own backyard, Girard at Large hour ___ begins right after this.