Bishop City Council declines to cut Symons Ambulance out of dispatch service

symonsambulance.jpgIn spite of the fact that Symons Ambulance has failed to pay for dispatch services for some nine months and failed to respond to twenty requests to discuss the matter, the Bishop City Council gave the company more time to meet its obligations. Some council members point to valuable ambulance service while others say it’s a matter of a signed agreement and an expired contract.

Police Chief Chris Carter and City officials, frustrated by a complete lack of response by Symons, issued a press release saying Carter would ask the City Council to consider terminating dispatch services for the ambulance company. Symons Ambulance has grown into what one financial magazine called “one of the fastest growing companies in the nation” with revenues of $3.9 million this year and operations in southern California. So, why the non-payment of $13,000 and why the lack of response and cooperation? Judd Symons would only say the company has problems collecting insurance reimbursements for service.

An unconfirmed story did come out when the City Council met Monday. A story that Judd Symons claims he could not provide a requested profit and loss statement to document financial problems because a company Symons wanted to merge with was under investigation by the FBI for alleged fraud. That claim, too, remains unexplained. And, while Judd Symons would not speak with the Police Chief or City Administrator, he did talk privately to council members.

Council woman Laura Smith said she doesn’t think Symons has to prove a financial problem. She said, “We dispatched for him for years with no charge.” Smith said she did not believe the City has to consider the actual financial status of Symons in regard to the lack of payment to Bishop. She agreed some of Symons’ behavior is “bad business”, but said the Council has to weigh the importance of a “critical service to the people.”

Without dispatch service from the Police Department, ambulance calls would go directly to Symons Ambulance and police or fire would respond at Symons’ request, according to officials.

Councilman Dave Stottlemyre is looking at the Inyo County ambulance contract expiring in June when the service will go out to bid. He hopes the Symons problem will be resolved and wants to “keep working with them.” After visiting with Judd Symons, he said it’s hard on small businesses with all of the regulations. Is he aware that Symons has grown into a major company? Stottlemyre said he is but he thinks in an area like Bishop they are losing money. He said it’s not costing the City anything to provide free dispatch service.

Other officials disagree and point to equipment, personnel and liability. The lack of a contract leaves the City liable for dispatched cases. Stottlemyre said constituents are benefiting from the dispatch services.

Councilman Keith Glidewell said he has spoken to Symons who offered no reason for not paying the City. He said he’s researching the issue and is not ready to take a position. Glidewell is concerned that terminating dispatch services might impact the ambulance services.

Mayor Pro Tem Pat Gardner said, “Symons is in breach of their contract and they need to pay. Their contract says what to do to make modifications.” She said Symons did not respond to any communications in over a year. Said Gardner, “If they can’t make it work, they need to talk to us. Don’t just default and do nothing.” Of the Council’s lack of action on the issue, Gardner said it sets a horrible precedence. She said it’s not a personal matter and that Symons does a “wonderful job.” Gardner said the City has an obligation for public safety but also a fiscal responsibility on contracts.

Before the Council meeting, Judd Symons dropped off a check at the Police Department for a reported $3200 on the $13,000 owed and told an officer about the alleged merger and fraud investigation. More on this issue is expected at the January 13th Council meeting.

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36 Responses to Bishop City Council declines to cut Symons Ambulance out of dispatch service

  1. Charles O. Jones December 14, 2013 at 1:12 pm #

    I would prefer to see the entire EMS program provided by the county rather than a for profit business.

    • Mark December 14, 2013 at 2:05 pm #

      That is a viable option, I’m sure Symons would prefer the county pick up the tab for all the non paying illegal aliens. Which is probably one of the reason the area isn’t as profitable, and there is no current contract.

      I think it’s more then fitting that the people who want the illegal work force pay for supporting them.

      Everyone who thumbs down this, can open their wallet and get on with havnig the county operate the ambulances.

      • Benett Kessler December 14, 2013 at 2:35 pm #

        I don’t do thumbs, but making racist assumptions does not help any situation. If our country had a better health care system, there may not be so many people going to the emergency room as their primary care provider. Medi-Cal may pay for ambulances. I don’t know. I am willing to pay more in taxes to assure that the poor have good health care. We are already paying for millions in government aid to cover minimum wage workers as it is. If Mr. Symons wants to talk to anyone about why he’s having a hard time paying the City, then maybe some problems could be addressed. As it is neither you nor I have all the facts.
        Benett Kessler

        • Mark December 14, 2013 at 4:24 pm #


          racist assumptions?

          that’s an idiot’s assumption

          We’re doomed

          • Benett Kessler December 14, 2013 at 6:46 pm #

            Chill out. Life’s not so ugly as you may think.

        • John Barton December 14, 2013 at 7:32 pm #

          Mono County has an ambulance/paramedic crew operating effectively throughout the county so it would be interesting to see how that has worked for them financially. The same plan may work for Inyo.

          • Benett Kessler December 14, 2013 at 11:04 pm #

            Good point. Don’t know how much it’s costing Mono. They do have disagreements from time to time between County and paramedics, but it’s a working
            system in all the communities.

      • Charles O. Jones December 15, 2013 at 9:35 am #

        @ Mark

        Statistics show us that 4 out 5 of those without medical insurance in the US are legal citizens. So our own citizens put far more stress on the system than the undocumented immigrant population does.

        But regardless, we (the insured) will always be footing the bills for the uninsured, either directly or indirectly. Private vs. public EMS has no appreciable impact on that fact.

        • Desert Tortoise December 16, 2013 at 11:52 am #

          Inability to pay medical bills is the single leading cause of personal bankruptcy, and fully 80% of those who declare bankruptcy due to the inability to pay medical bills have health insurance.

          Anyone who has ever had an emergency that requried an ambulance ride knows how the costs add up. The last one I had I ended up paying the full ambulance bill (after a lot of back and fourth negotiation on the eventual price) to pay the majority of my deductible. After that I still had to pay 20% of the remaining medical bills and the full cost of procedures and treatments given me in the ER that the insurance subsequenty claimed were not necessary and refused to pay for, sticking me with the bill.. It emptied my savings, thousands of dollars in bills beyond what the health insurance paid. It is a racket and everyone in the health care business including old man Symons know that going in. Most patients, unfortunatley, do not and being in a medical emergency doesn’t leave you any time to do your research. The more I write the angrier it makes me, the system and the people involved are so sleazy and dispreputable.

      • sugarmagnolia December 15, 2013 at 11:04 am #

        well then, as of Jan 1., almost all people will have health care…Symons should be a happy camper then!

        And in theory, our insurance rates should decrease. The insured will no longer be paying for the uninsured, hospitals will be paid for all their services…but I’m not going to hold my breath. I expect the shareholders of insurance companies will be seeing some nice dividends!

        That’s how america works these days….nothing gets through congress that doesn’t fatten the wallets of the haves!

  2. Mark December 12, 2013 at 6:55 pm #

    . “Stottlemyre said constituents are benefiting from the dispatch services.”

    “Stottlemyre said he is but he thinks in an area like Bishop they are losing money. He said it’s not costing the City anything to provide free dispatch service.”

    “Symons does a “wonderful job.” Gardner said the City has an obligation for public safety but also a fiscal responsibility on contracts.”

    Let me get this straight; Symons does a wonderful job, constituents are benefiting from the dispatch service, and it’s not costing the city anything to provide free dispatch service.

    So why is the city charging for it? It is not the city’s position to be in the ambulance dispatch business,

    When I originally said the service could be provided cheaper in the private sector I had no idea the city could do it for no expense while raising the level of service they provide to the public.

    If the city can dispatch for free while helping to providing a better quality of service I say ‘good job’ to everyone involved. Somebody should probably make that happen.

    • One December 12, 2013 at 11:31 pm #

      Do you live in Bishop? Pay taxes? Just Curious, I cannot imagine people paying taxes for a service that ultimately puts money in a companies pockets is worth while to support. Symons does a great job but why make the richer “richer”?

      • Mark December 13, 2013 at 11:17 am #

        In a rural area such as the Eastern Sierra we do not necessarily have all the options cities do in other areas. It seems to me the current dispatch scenerio is working well for everyone involved. As I continue to preach it’s not the city’s job to make money, it is their duty to provide the community the best services they can. And that appears to be exactly what they are doing.

        “If you have to choose between a familiar but unpleasant situation and an unfamiliar situation, choose the familiar one because the unfamiliar situation may turn out to be worse.”

        I do not live within city limits

        • Desert Tortoise December 13, 2013 at 1:43 pm #

          Depends. The police or fire department may call an ambulance and you might not need or want it. You might or might not be charged for the call, even if you refuse the ambulance ride. There is also a strong motivation to overcharge if the customer has health insurance or Medicare that is willing to pay, or can be bamboozled into paying. And if their insurance refuses payment, you bill the customer the thousands of bucks typically charged for an ambulance ride. The police and fire departments call for an ambulance out of an abundance of caution and many take the ride unaware of the financial consequences. The last time I was offered one i turned it down and drove myself to the ER saving myself considerable money (even with an 80/20 medical plan the costs can add up quickly). Most people who have never dealt with an ambulance company before do not think to do that.

  3. Thankful December 12, 2013 at 11:44 am #


    I for one am very thankful that you let citizens freely express their opinions. I also appreciate what others have to say even if I don’t agree with all of them.. It is free speech. I know there has to be limitations at times… lord knows I have had a lot of posts deleted, but I do see why you do at times. For the majority you have posted my comments and I appreciate it. You give the people an avenue to express their feelings or tell the truth about issues that would never be heard in Mono/Inyo counties if it wasn’t for your blog. There are a lot of issues that go on and would stay swept under the carpet if it weren’t for you.

    I just wanted to say thank you for the opportunity.

    @ Ken Warner you sure post a lot on here…. so you must like something about the venomous diatribe! My suggestion to you is if you don’t like it and it works you up that much, why don’t you stop reading it or using the opportunity that Benett provides the people by posting? Just saying…..

  4. Armchair Pundit December 12, 2013 at 10:54 am #

    This is a weird story. I’m wondering about the merger and FBI fraud investigation with the other company. So sensational in of itself. Why start telling the police now? Unless it’s time to start saving your own skin?
    I’m with the Mayor. It sets a bad precedence. Besides, integrity is something you have when no one is looking. We’re all looking now. And after reading this, I don’t see anything close to integrity.

    • Mark December 12, 2013 at 3:25 pm #

      Integrity is rare these days, and down right hard to find within TOML

    • Desert Tortoise December 13, 2013 at 1:38 pm #

      The FBI has current investigations against a number of ambulance and home health care services for Medicare fraud. It is a national problem.

  5. Ken Warner December 12, 2013 at 10:07 am #

    Benett, why do you print such venomous diatribe? What positive value do you see in it other than getting more click throughs and page hits by those looking for a place to spew their venom?

    • Benett Kessler December 12, 2013 at 10:16 am #

      Do you have a specific comment that you disagree with? Or do you wish to counter what you consider venomous?

    • One December 12, 2013 at 11:27 pm #


  6. Frank December 11, 2013 at 7:22 pm #

    This is good news. DT, you’re a very disrespectful person. I’m quite sure owning an ambulance service is nothing like the ability to print money. Your proof is a mansion in Ridgecrest, really? Last time I looked any property in Ridgecrest is not exactly proof of wealth. With fuel prices and regulation ever increasing, I’m sure it is getting more difficult every day to operate such a service. I think its time to say thank you, and have the taxes we already pay fund dispatch services that already exist.

    • Shine December 11, 2013 at 11:48 pm #

      Not charging in future might be smart. Forgiving breach of current contract and debt stupid,

    • Russ Monroe December 12, 2013 at 8:08 am #

      I see no reason to believe that DT is a person, Frank.
      Can you prove that it (DT) is anything other than an arrogant, hostile, fictional character?

      • Pedro December 12, 2013 at 10:34 pm #

        No different than an arrogant, hostile, supposedly non fictional Russ Monroe. I take that back, DT is a more likable imaginary friend than you. Don’t sweat it, we all have self esteem issues, you’re not alone. Group Hug?

    • Desert Tortoise December 12, 2013 at 9:13 am #

      Doesn’t seem like they are hurting for money, but they refuse to honor their contract with Bishop and owe them a good deal of money. I don’t care what people say here about Symons, he is in breach of his contract, owes the public money and refuses to talk about it. He is not an honest or honorable man. Honest people do not behave that way. Those of you defending him are blind. His actions speak louder than your words however. Enough of the sappy sentimentalism. You need to learn to take a hard nosed look at how a business operates. Just because he is from the area does not automatically make him honest or even a good guy. Based on his actions, he is neither.

      Frank, I don’t respect dishonsty. Symons violated his contract. That is dishonest. It’s emphatically not “just business” unless you have become so innured to dishonest business practices that you have come to accept dishonesty as an acceptable business practice. I do not and will not. He is cheating the city and that is not acceptable.

      How? is on to the reason. Like Liberty Ambulance and every other ambulance service, they charge huge sums of money, always in the thousands of dollars, for a simple taxi ride (be honest, very few ambulance rides require any real life saving skills, most are precautionary like the little girl injured in Ridgecrest, delivering a stable patient). but pay their employees a song. Because there are no other ambulance services up there, just as Liberty is the only game in the Indian Wells Valley, employees can either take it or leave it. The comment in the U-T article about Symons “always hiring” is telling. I am sure their low pay leads to turnover, which is typical of the industry.

      Btw Frank, did you Google Map Mahan Street immediately south and west of West Ridgecrest Bl and use street view to see the size of the mansion I told you about? Why don’t you do that and report back. The house is immense and looks like something you would see in Brentwood or Cupertino. Go ahead and look, then tell us what you saw.

  7. How? December 11, 2013 at 6:55 pm #

    Where is the money going?

    People at McDonalds make more than the EMTs at Symons. FACT.

    • Pedro December 11, 2013 at 11:42 pm #

      Did you check out their Baja 1000 rig? Badass! No need to pay employees or debts if you look that cool.

  8. What??? December 11, 2013 at 5:34 pm #

    “Old Man Symons”? Not only are you insulting, DT, but you have no idea about whom you are speaking. Judd Symons, far from being old, has lived here all his life. Graduated BUHS in the 80s. This isn’t some guy from Ridgecrest, or Lancaster, or wherever you are pontificating from this week. This is a man who *knows* our community because he, and his family, are a part of the fabric. If you need an ambulance ride, there’s a damn good chance – I’d bet better than 50/50 – that “Old man Symons” will be your EMT and driver. And he will be professional and take the utmost care to deliver you or your loved one safely to the hospital. He learned it from the first “Old Man Symons”, God rest his soul.

    • Really???? December 12, 2013 at 12:39 am #

      Like printing money? Again, your lack of knowledge with respect to the operation of EMS is glaring. The last thing this community needs is a large conglomerate ambulance service in this town. Judd Symons has spent his life servicing this community. He does so 24/7, always on duty, radio attached to his side even if he is not the first line paramedic. The chances of him being your medic in an emergency are better than 50/50 and that is a GOOD thing. He is an excellent medic and you want him on your side. The city council has done the right thing. He will make it right. Judd will continue to deliver excellent care to the members of this community and even to you.

      • Desert Tortoise December 16, 2013 at 1:55 pm #

        The man you are defending so ardently is planning to merge with another ambulance firm, maybe even a big nationwide comglomerate and oh by the way chooses a partner that is under Federal investigation. Good judgement, eh? Symons apparently only cares about his money. Do you feel like a chump yet?

  9. Desert Tortoise December 11, 2013 at 2:26 pm #

    They aren’t the only ambulance service Bishop can contract with. Ambulance services are almost like printing money. $5000 for a short ride across Ridgecrest for a little girl with minor injuries. For giggles try Google Mapping the corner of West Ridgecrest Bl. and Mahan Street in Ridgecrest. The business on the southwest corner is Libery Ambulance. The mansion behind it belongs to the owner of Liberty Ambulance. Do NOT believe old man Symons when he cries poor. It is a line of bull.

  10. Mark December 11, 2013 at 1:38 pm #

    “He said it’s not costing the City anything to provide free dispatch service.”

    It’s actually a benifit to the community that they are dispatched by Bishop P.D. And it’s stated above it doesn’t cost the city anything.

    Yet the P.D. wants paid for it?

    Perhaps Symons is silently saying “pound sand Bishop”.

    • Benett Kessler December 11, 2013 at 1:53 pm #

      The only question we have heard is – if Symons Ambulance doesn’t like the payments, why did they sign an agreement?

      • Mark December 11, 2013 at 2:52 pm #

        People default on signed agreements all the time.

        My question is why does the city charge for something that doesn’t cost them anything and actually provides the local area with better dispatch/communications then if Symons dispatched themselves.

        • Desert Tortoise December 12, 2013 at 3:51 pm #

          Defaulting on a signed agreement usually lands you in a courtroom defending yourself in a civil suit. Would you walk away from that kind of money owed to you in a signed contract just because the guy stiffing you comes from your town and is a “nice guy”. You would not stay in business very long doing that. Why can’t Bishop stand up for the taxpayers and take Symons to court?


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