The consultant, Phoenix-based Public Safety Research Group, countered that it has already performed the bulk of the work it was commissioned to do and that the data it was analyzing came straight from the city. The firm was hired last fall to analyze the city's EMS and had presented its preliminary findings to the City Council in April.
Jon Altmann, owner of the firm, said he was surprised by the city's termination of its contract last month. His group had already analyzed the data and produced a 278-page report with recommendations. It was in the process of performing the final edits when the city terminated its agreement.
"I thought we had an amicable relationship," Altmann told the Weekly. "Certainly, nothing ever came up during the course of business."
He acknowledged that the study took longer than expected to produce, but said the city contributed to the missed deadlines. For example, even though the city awarded the project to PSRG in August 2009, it didn't provide the company with a written contract until November, Altmann said. As a result, the firm couldn't begin working until December, he said.
"The city dragged out the process and made it longer than we thought it would be," Altmann said.
The contract termination was the second time in the past year that the city has fired a consultant who was analyzing services in the Fire Department. In April, the city terminated its contract with the firm Emergency Services Consulting International, which was looking into staffing levels in the fire department. Members of the City Council said they felt the study would be "biased" after the consultant told them he had never recommended staffing reductions in the past.
News about the latest contract termination emerged Monday night when Assistant City Manager Pamela Antil told the City Council that the anticipated study has been dropped. She said the city has given PSRG several deadlines, but the firm failed to meet them. The city paid the firm about $33,000 of the $47,000 in the contract.
Antil also said there were inaccuracies in the data the firm provided to the Fire Department.
Altmann disputed the allegations of inaccuracies. He also said his firm's analysis largely confirmed the tentative findings it presented to the council in the spring. It concluded that the city's EMS is doing a good job and the citizens of Palo Alto are getting a "good, prompt service."
"If Palo Alto were a private ambulance company, I'd say it's performing well," Altmann said. "I don't think you can get a much better statement of public operation."
The service is expected to become more critical in the coming years. Another study, performed jointly by TriData and ICMA, estimated that medical calls would make up more than 64 percent of the incidents the Fire Department will be responding to in 2025. The number of medical calls has gone up by 48 percent between 2000 and 2009, the consultant found.