GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Like most cities on the coast, Gulfport is looking for ways to save money by cutting operating costs. During Tuesday's regular city council meeting, Mayor George Schloegel told council members that he and the city's ambulance service, American Medical Response, are negotiating ways to spend less when it comes to emergency calls.
For more than 40 years, American Medical Response has dispatched ambulances to every city in 13 South Mississippi counties. Fire engines with paramedics will also respond to some of those calls when a life is in peril.
The City of Gulfport, however, as a courtesy, voluntarily sends its engines on about 75 percent of all medical calls costing taxpayers' money.
Mayor Schloegel told AMR and the city council, he'd like to see some of those costs cut.
"We have had a meeting with AMR and we think that we are on the right track to do some negotiating," Mayor George Schloegel said.
The exact amount of money that could be saved is still being determined, but the mayor believes the negotiations will be well worth the effort.
City Councilman R. Lee Flowers commended AMR for a job well done and thanked them for working with the city to try and trim the budget.
"They wrote an 11 page letter documenting things that can help with," Flowers pointed out.
AMR's Christopher Cirillo recommended doing what other cities do: only send fire engines when the Jaws of Life are needed or lives are in serious jeopardy.
"We've met with the mayor a couple of times and we have met with the fire chief, and we are eager to learn about the improvements that they're talking about," Cirillo said. "And we are certainly willing to sit down and work with them to help in any way we can as a good standing partner with the city."
City council members grilled both Cirillo and the mayor about any possible changes to ambulance service in Gulfport. Both men agree it will not affect medical response time, but it could affect the yearly budget's bottom line.
"As CEO of this city, I think I have a responsibility to look at every single expense as best I can with all the resources we have within the city, and keep you, the council, informed of what I'm doing," Mayor Schloegel said.
Although AMR and Mayor Schloegel are working out any possible changes to streamline emergency services and save Gulfport money, council members said they would still like to have a final say before anything becomes finalized.