Mercedes to look at city-run ambulance service

Mercedes may eventually have its own ambulance service with the city poised to explore the idea in the coming months.

The city terminated its contract with Star EMS, citing its ability to end it “without cause, without further obligation or liability,” according to a letter sent by interim City Manager Sergio Zavala to the Elsa-based company.

Mercedes terminated the $180,000-a-year contract because the city is “headed in a different direction,” according to City Attorney Juan Molina. It’s unclear what prompted the city to drop Star EMS all together.

“The community of Mercedes had for well over six years Star EMS, which provided a good service to the city of Mercedes,” said Commissioner Ruben “Chano” Guajardo.

The city wants “great” ambulance service instead of sticking with Star EMS, Guajardo said.

The city accepted sealed proposals for ambulance service with companies expected to make presentations at the next commission meeting slated for Tuesday, Jan. 9. Commissioners may then choose a company to service the city.

Weslaco — a city with publicly funded emergency medical services — has been responding to Mercedes as part of an agreement between the two that will end on Jan. 10. The agreement comes at a cost of $5,000 per week for Mercedes.

Weslaco has been using one of its reserve ambulances with two emergency medical technicians on board who responded to 75 calls in Mercedes within about a week and a half.

The Weslaco ambulance is stationed out of the Mercedes Fire Department.

Helping Mercedes did not impact emergency medical service in Weslaco, according to Fire Chief Antonio “Tony” Lopez.

The Mercedes City Commission will likely look at the financial impact of becoming “self-reliant” regarding ambulance service, Zavala said.

“The current city commission seems very intent towards that end,” Zavala said.

Commissioners may approve the hiring of a consultant to look into the financial feasibility of a city-run service — the next step in moving forward with the idea.

“We want to see what it would take and how we would pay for it,” Zavala said. “We need to do what’s responsible, and if we can get it done, that’s what we’ll do.”

Mercedes Mayor Henry Hinojosa said the commission will take a serious look at going independent.

“We have to see what the consultant comes up with and take it from there,” Hinojosa said.