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Lake Tahoe Ambulance gets back on line

Rob Bhatt

Lake Tahoe Ambulance returned to service Thursday after a brief interruption caused by what most close to the situation are describing as a bureaucratic glitch.

California Highway Patrol officials in Sacramento only discovered a problem with LTA’s license-renewal application on Tuesday, said Bill Brown, chief of CHP program management and professional standards.

Specifically, a new member added to the ambulance company’s board of directors constituted an ownership change under CHP regulations, Brown said. Consequently, LTA needed to apply for a new operating license.

Instead, LTA, apparently unaware of the requirement, simply submitted its annual license-renewal application to local CHP officials about a week before the July 15 expiration of its 1996-97 license.

Brown said CHP officials in Sacramento discovered the ownership change as they processed the renewal application Tuesday and subsequently notified LTA that it had to reapply.

Neither Ron Bush, LTA’s owner, nor Chuck Staib, the company’s chief administrator, could be reached for comment Thursday.

They were reportedly in the Sacramento area having the brakes on company ambulances inspected and submit maintenance records required to get a new operating license from the CHP.

One LTA ambulance returned to service at about 10 a.m. Thursday, and a second unit was put back on line at about 4 p.m.

“The ambulance company has an excellent reputation,” Brown added. “They haven’t had any problems with their maintenance record.”

Two ambulances from El Dorado County Fire Department covered LTA’s service area – most portions of El Dorado County within the Tahoe Basin – until the local ambulances returned to service.

The West Slope ambulances were stationed at area fire departments, allowing paramedics not intimately familiar with the area to follow fire trucks to a handful of minor medical calls.

“Things went smoothly,” said Division Chief Bill Gilliland of the South Lake Tahoe Fire Department.

The brief service interruption came less than a week before votes are counted in the mail-in election for continuing the parcel fee that maintains the South Shore’s two-ambulance system.

The ballots will be counted next Tuesday following a hearing on the situation.

County Supervisor John Upton on Thursday reiterated his support for the parcel fee, which generates about $500,000 a year for the service, or about 45 percent of its total costs.

LTA’s contract with the county runs through 1998.

Some time next year, county officials plan on awarding a new contract to either LTA or a different provider.

Either way, Upton believes the county needs to have the funding in place to provide an adequate level of service, whoever provides the service.

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