According to Mayor Tony Vauss, the township has switched its EMS service provider from the Monmouth Ocean Hospital Service Corporation to the Americare ambulance service, which is partially owned by Kevin Taylor, a former candidate for East Orange mayor and for the City Council in the 5th Ward.
“It’s because MONOC is going out of business,” said Vauss on Tuesday, April 2. “Americare doesn’t have a long service record with Irvington. They just got the contract.”
Taylor and Americare are trying to expand the operation by taking over EMS services in Orange, so he is using his new deal with Irvington as proof his company can do the job there, too. He also said Americare has been South Orange’s primary EMS and dispatch service provider since 2017.
“We’ve been the primary EMS and dispatch provider in Irvington since March 22,” said Taylor on Thursday, April 4. “We just got that contract in Irvington, but we’ve been in South Orange for two years now. But we’ve been secondary in Newark, East Orange, South Orange and Irvington. We don’t have the same dispatch as the Fire Department or the Police Department.”
Taylor’s intentions in Orange hit a snag Tuesday, March 19, when Orange City Council unanimously voted to award the city’s EMS contract to Bell Medical Transport, of Orange, from Wednesday, April 3, 2019, to April 2, 2020, for $333,400, with the option to extend the contract for two, one-year extensions in an amount not to exceed $733,310. Orange city clerk Joyce Lanier confirmed on Monday, April 8, that it was a walk-on to the council’s regular meeting agenda.
Taylor said Americare should have gotten the Orange EMS contract, because it submitted the lowest bid, $295,000, to replace Orange’s current EMS provider, the Pulse Medical Transportation company. But Orange business administrator Chris Hartwyck said Americare’s bid was disqualified because it had been delivered in an unsealed envelope.
According to state, county and local municipal law, all bids on public contracts must be sealed at the time they are submitted for review.
“Once the bid was open, that’s where the problem was,” said Harold Weiner, Irvington’s municipal clerk, on Monday, April 15. “Then there is the ability to collude. It makes it difficult that the bid was already opened. In some cases, these are multimillion-dollar contracts.”
Taylor filed a lawsuit against Orange, asking Newark Superior Court Judge Keith E. Lynott to issue a temporary restraining order to stop Bell Medical Transport from getting the contract. He went to court Tuesday, April 2, to testify, receiving a ruling on Friday, April 5.
“The judge issued a stay order for them to get their facts right,” said Taylor on Tuesday, April 2. “We have won the bids in South Orange and we won the bids in Irvington. We’ve been doing this for a while. We’re very familiar with the bid process and how it’s supposed to work. It’s supposed to be sealed and handed in to the law office.”
On Friday, April 5, Lynott issued a temporary restraining order to Taylor, on behalf of the Americare ambulance company that he co-owns, in order to block the implementation of a $333,400 contract to provide Emergency Medical Services service between Orange and Bell Medical Transportation that had been scheduled to go into effect on Wednesday, April 3
“The public interest is advanced by the proper application of local public contract law. Here I find that the public interest would be harmed, in the event of the contravention of these laws,” said Lynott on Friday, April 5. “The public needs and relies on a smoothly functioning EMS. The court of course takes this matter very seriously. I believe that the burden of hardship does favor the plaintiff. I conclude that the public interest would not be harmed by the implementation of restraints at this time. I will emphasize again that the plaintiff has established his right to a temporary restraint.”
“Even granting Bell’s qualifications as a contractor, it is undisputed at this time that Americare was the lowest bidder,” said Lynott. “So I conclude that the public interest lies with the proper application of local public contract law. Granting the temporary stay would serve the public interest.”
Lynott also ordered Taylor, the attorney representing Orange, and other interested parties in the case to appear in his courtroom again on Thursday, May 23. Meanwhile, Lynott also ordered Pulse Medical Transportation, which has been providing EMS service for Orange, to continue providing service until this issue is resolved.