By Jensen, Randy on April 24, 2020.
City council has postponed its decision on whether or not to allow the donation of a decommissioned ambulance to this year’s Sunrise Rotary Club Los Amigos Project until its next regular council meeting on May 4.
Council was asked during Monday’s public meeting to approve the donation of a single ambulance to the Rotarians. For the past decade council approval of the annual Los Amigos donation has essentially been pro forma, with the City routinely setting aside decommissioned emergency services and transport vehicles for that purpose. The Los Amigos Project then drives the vehicles to Mazatlan, Mexico, alongside other neighbouring communities’ donations, to provide them free of charge to local towns and hospitals in that region who could not otherwise afford them.
This year, in light of the COVID-19 outbreak, Coun. Joe Mauro was not so sure the donation of the ambulance, which is currently valued at $8,000, was a good idea.
“I totally understand this is a great project with this group, that brings all these vehicles to Mexico,” he said. “But what is it which decides a vehicle like this is excess use? Because I am thinking, I don’t know if we ever have an excess of ambulances in Lethbridge or within the province; especially with what is going on now (with COVID-19).”
Mauro felt there might be a more local need for such a vehicle and, he reminded councillors, the border was still closed; so there was no rush to make a decision. He then put forth a motion council postpone decision on the matter to the end of year, or at least until the border reopens.
“How are they (Los Amigos) crossing the border?” he asked. “How are they getting to Mexico? We’re approving something where we don’t know. With this COVID thing, it has pretty much stalled the world. I can’t cross the border. I don’t see how they are going to be able to cross the border; so that’s the reason for me postponing it.”
Mauro said he wanted more information from City staff on the criteria which makes this particular ambulance surplus before making a decision. He also wanted answers from the Sunrise Rotary Club as to how they intend to proceed with their caravan this year in light of all that has happened with COVID-19.
Coun. Ryan Parker, who moved the original motion to donate the vehicle, asked if Mauro’s proposed motion to postpone could be amended to come back to council in two weeks rather than toward the end of the year. This would allow time for City staff and Los Amigos Project organizers to come back with answers to address any lingering council concerns.
This amendment was accepted, and council then voted 6-3 to postpone the decision for two weeks.
After the vote, The Herald asked City staff for clarification on the question of whether or not a neighbouring municipality in either southern Alberta or Saskatchewan might have use for a 2010 ambulance, even one which has been deemed surplus for City fleet purposes.
“Surplus City vehicles and equipment are normally disposed of through a public auction website,” a statement provided by City staff in answer to the question reads. “Cases do exist where an external entity may request a surplus vehicle to be donated to their organization. All donation requests must be approved by council.”
The statement goes on to read the vehicle to be donated is then assessed at salvage value and is always purchased “as-is.” Once council approves the donation, the organization making the request is then informed, and the salvage value of the vehicle is paid back to the City through city council’s own contingencies fund.
The City does not actively seek out potential recipients for the vehicles which are to be donated, the statement confirms.
“The City does not search for or solicit any entities to which vehicles or equipment may be donated,” it reads. “All requests for donation must be received by the City and need to be approved through council.”
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