The Chicago Tribune has an article about a bill from Trace Ambulance to the Village of Tinley Park.
Tinley Park severed its 35-year relationship with a local ambulance provider this summer in a move that officials said will save the town money. But less than two weeks after the contract ended, the village received a final, shocking bill from Trace Ambulance for nearly $500,000.
The money was for fees the company typically waived in the past, Trace President Christopher Vandenberg said. “I think it’s clear as day that we’re owed the money,” he said.
The village has refused to pay, and officials have declined to comment on the dispute, citing the potential for litigation.
“We do not believe that Trace is or ever was entitled to any additional compensation for these claimed amounts,” Tinley Park Treasurer Brad Bettenhausen wrote in a letter to the company obtained by the Tribune through an open records request.
The financial standoff began in July, shortly after Tinley Park dropped its ambulance service provider and gave a contract worth $3.7 million through July 2018 to a competitor. The competitor, Kurtz Ambulance in New Lenox, had a bid 21 percent lower than what Trace had bid, officials said. Trace contends its expired deal with Tinley said the village would pay $200 for each hour the town required more than the number of ambulances stipulated in the contract. After Tinley Park dropped Trace, the company tallied those hours since May 2010 and sent the village a final bill totaling $492,206.
That Aug. 12 invoice hasn’t gone over smoothly with town officials. In a written response to Vandenberg’s invoice, Bettenhausen said the village was surprised by the amount, “as we had not been previously advised such charges existed.” “It would be expected that had such charges arisen, they would have been brought (to) the village’s attention and billed at regular intervals over the course of the contract period, with such billing expected to occur no less than annually,” Bettenhausen said. “No such notice or billing of such charges has occurred” before the bill.
The town denied Trace’s bill and also questioned the accuracy of the charges, saying it could find no record that it had requested the additional service.
On Sept. 5, Vandenberg wrote back to the village reiterating Trace’s demand for payment. Bettenhausen again denied the request, saying Trace has never claimed to have been entitled to any additional compensation for providing backup ambulances. Vandenberg said his company had agreed to “waive” the charge in the past as part of contract negotiations.
The first signs of conflict emerged at a public safety meeting in May, when village officials revealed that the Kurtz bid had come in “significantly” lower than Trace’s.
Vandenberg and Brian Dolan, an executive with Trace’s parent company, attended that meeting and took the uncommon step of warning the village at a public meeting that dropping the company could be risky. Trace served as the village’s ambulance provider since 1979, except for a brief interruption in the 1990s, Vandenberg said at the time.
Vandenberg also said Tinley officials had approached Trace during negotiations for the now-expired deal and asked for cost cuts because of the sluggish economy, which Trace accommodated.
The village’s decision to hire Kurtz, made at a July 1 Village Board meeting, proved controversial. Some residents and Trace employees slammed trustees for dumping a local business that knows the streets.