Fort Collins spends $50K on median

Most anyone driving along Harmony Road surely will have noticed the new median at the intersection of Lemay Avenue.

A definite HGTV contender, it features lots of river rocks, bushes and trees. It’s quite the sight, especially considering the decidedly pedestrian grass median just to the west.

But it sure looks expensive.

So The Eye asked: How much did this thing of beauty set us back?

Turns out, the city of Fort Collins spent $50,000 on it – a nice chunk of change that would buy plenty of grass seed or even sod.

Tim Kemp, capital projects engineer for the city, acknowledged that, as far as medians go, this one was expensive to build. But grass can end up costing a lot to water and maintain.

The new median, the first of its kind in Fort Collins, will allow the city to test whether it can save money in the long-term by using trees and plants that use less water. It’s also designed so that city crews will spend less timing pulling weeds.

“The goal is to cut down on long-term maintenance by using more sustainable plant choices,” Kemp said.

Sounds good.

Looking ahead, he said, if the city determines it can save money with these kinds of medians, it may build even more.

NCMC confident in its Weld paramedics investment

Weld County Paramedics Services posted losses in 2008, 2009 and 2010 before bouncing back with net income of just over $250,000 in 2011.

With numbers that unhealthy, the Eye wondered what NCMC Inc., which runs Northern Colorado Medical Center, was thinking when it bought the assets of the ambulance service last month.

NCMC paid about $800,000 for the operation, which includes eight ambulances, three of which are model-year 2011 and are worth about $151,000 each, according to county documents.

For starters, NCMC believes it can fairly easily find ways to save money, in part by eliminating duplication in a variety of areas, including back-office functions such as billing and supply ordering.

It also points to changes in the way ambulance services now bill the government. Paramedic services were forced to bundle their charges at a rate that “grossly understated” the cost. That was fixed in 2010.

The Great Recession also didn’t help, leaving many without health insurance. The lack of insurance meant that many patients, once examined by paramedics, refused transport if the situation was not an emergency. Weld County Paramedic Services could not charge if a patient was not transported.

Beyond all of these factors, having the ability to control a patient’s care from the very beginning will allow NCMC to better treat a patient, ultimately saving even more money, it says.

There’s good incentive to do so: The Affordable Care Act states that a patient who is readmitted into a hospital with the same condition within 30 days of being discharged will not have his or her care covered by Medicare or Medicaid, leaving the hospital with unpaid bills.

And, as we all know, hospitals just hate that.

Mystery at the MPO

Something’s up at the North Front Range Metropolitan Planning Organization, but the Eye can’t figure out what.

A phone message left at the MPO offices asking about Executive Director Cliff Davidson was returned by a lawyer. That person told the Eye there was nothing to say at the moment. Davidson himself never returned repeated phone calls.

The organization’s board consists of 15 officials from different NoCo communities. The MPO works to enhance air quality and mobility between the North Front Range and the Denver Metro Area.

None of board officials contacted would agree to discuss the status of the organization.

The Eye will keep you updated, or at least try.

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