gvfdAn Administrative Law Judge’s mid-February recommended denial of the Golden Valley Fire District’s (GVFD) bid to provide ground transport ambulance service has been turned upside down by the interim director of the Arizona Department of Health Services. Cory Nelson has overturned ALJ Tammy Eigenheer’s  findings and awarded the fire district the Certificate of Necessity (CON) to initiate ambulance service.

   Nelson’s March 24 record of decision stated that Eigenheer’s findings of facts “are not supported by the greater weight of the credible evidence, are not consistent with applicable law, they are not legally correct, and they are hereby REJECTED.” Conversely, Nelson ruled that the GVFD has met its burden of proof and met statutory requirements to run ambulances in its service boundary.
   “Accordingly, application EMS No. 3820 is granted for a CON for GVFD to provide ALS and BLS service within Golden Valley,” Nelson’s decision stated. “A Certificate of Necessity shall be issued to Golden Valley Fire District on the date this Decision and Orders become final.”
   The company that has provided ambulance service in Golden Valley for more than 30 years has 30 days to appeal the decision. River Medical General Manager John Valentine said his company will read the decision and evaluate its options.
   The GVFD governing board is divided 3-2 in support of the ambulance enterprise, and Board Chairman Paul Gorham said he is very pleased with Nelson’s decision. Gorham said the district, absent an appeal, could begin providing ambulance service in 60-90 days.
   While some analysts have projected the district could make as much as $1-million in its first year of ambulance operation, Gorham is more cautious with his estimate. Gorham believes the ambulance enterprise, figuring in initial equipment and personnel expenditures, should net the district about $370,000 in profit in its first year.
   Gorham said Nelson’s decision is welcome news to a district that is pondering a tax levy increase as it engages in preliminary planning for its next budget.
   “It’s a new capital stream,” Gorham said. “It’s very possible that we may not have to do the levy adjustment. However, I’m still a proponent of it, just to give us that extra room.”
   Gorham said it’ll be necessary to prepare alternate budgets in coming weeks while waiting to learn whether Nelson’s decision is appealed.
   “Budget A with the CON will be really tight with lots of cutting and a lot more hard feelings,” Gorham said. “`Budget B will be a little easier with not so much cutting.”

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