The city's plan to designate a single ambulance company to handle all calls is prompting Twin City Ambulance to discontinue all 911 emergency service in Buffalo, beginning Dec. 29.
The decision is not expected to cause service disruptions, said Judy Shanley, a member of the city's Emergency Medical Services Board.
Officials hope to finalize a contract with a single provider in January or February. In the interim, officials expressed confidence that the city's existing provider will be able to pick up the slack. "We don't foresee any public safety issue at this time," said Shanley.
Twin City has criticized Buffalo's plan to make a "radical change" in the way ambulance service is delivered, claiming the new system causes service delays. City officials dispute the claim, insisting that response times will be improved.
The city is divided into six ambulance zones. Rural/Metro Medical Services handles calls in four zones, while Twin City responds to calls in two zones.
As part of a planned overhaul of emergency services, the city will seek proposals this month from companies interested in handling all 911 calls. The provider would be required to pay an annual franchise fee that some speculate could range from $250,000 to $350,000.
A single ambulance provider serviced Buffalo for several years in the 1990s, but the city went to a zoned system eight years ago.
The city originally hoped to finalize a deal with a single provider by Jan. 1, but several factors delayed the process.
Twin City long ago said it would not submit a bid on the contract, claiming it would make no sense operationally or financially. Instead, Twin City said it "aggressively" sought other contracts based on the assumption that the company would no longer service 911 calls in Buffalo after Jan. 1. The company was recently awarded service contracts in the towns of Amherst, Clarence and Newstead.
"We pursued other business to avoid layoffs after Jan. 1," Chief Executive Officer Thomas Maxian said in a written statement.
Company spokesman Robert Orlowski Jr. stressed that the change only affects 911 calls in Buffalo, saying Twin City will continue to handle all other calls.