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Two ambulances running too hot

By Jessie Burchette
jburchette@salisburypost.com
Overheating problems on two new Ford ambulances may force the county to speed up the purchase of more ambulances.
The county took delivery of the two Fords last fall at a total cost of $250,000.
The ambulances gave no problems in the chilly fall, winter and early spring.
When temperatures started climbing, that’s when the problems surfaced.
County Manager Gary Page said the air conditioning units on the ambulances won’t cool the box area where patients are treated and transported.
To worsen the situation, running the air conditioner overheats various components, causing the computers to shut down the engine.
Efforts to get the vehicles repaired have thus far failed.
The units have been out of service and in the garage for two and three weeks at a time, forcing Emergency Medical Services to use backups ó older models with more than 100,000 miles that are unreliable for continuous service.
Carl Ford, chairman of the Rowan County Board of Commissioners, met last week with Page and Frank Thomason, emergency services director, to discuss the situation.
Ford and other commissioners aren’t happy that the county is apparently stuck with two large, orange, blue and white lemons.
County officials say the company isn’t standing behind its product. Similar problems are being reported across the country.
For several years the county routinely bought Ford ambulances, but stopped for a couple of years after encountering problems. Page said the 2007 Fords had some overheating problems but the company switched to a larger engine which was supposed to have solved the problems.The county took delivery of two new Dodge ambulances last week as part of the routine annual replacement of vehicles.
Page is asking commissioners to quickly approve purchase of two more Dodge ambulances which will be paid out of the 2010 budget which starts July 1.
Page has talked privately with commissioners and had apparently planned to bring the issue to the board ad the May 18 meeting.
Commissioners wanted more information and to make sure every option for repairing the problem ambulances is pursued.
To avoid having ambulances breaking down with patients in the back, Page wants to go ahead and speed up the purchase of two additional ambulances. If the board approves, the county can get new 2009 Dodge units at last year’s price.
Typically the county budgets money for ambulances on July 1, but waits until November to buy.
Page also noted some commissioners have questioned buying Dodge products with the parent company, Chrysler, in bankruptcy.
Ambulances typically log 50,000 miles a year and last three years. Page sees no problem going with Dodge as long as they can get parts for three years.
If commissioners approve the speeded-up purchase, it will solve the immediate problem.
The county will still have two virtually new ambulances that can be used only in cool weather.
During his meeting with emergency services officials, Ford asked staff to look for alternate solutions, perhaps finding a way to add a self-contained air conditioning unit to the box areas.
Contact Jessie Burchette at 704-797-4254.

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