Merced County hires consultant for ambulance bid

Process timeline: By end of this year or early 2014

rgiwargis@mercedsunstar.comMay 8, 2013 

— The Merced County Board of Supervisors has approved a contract with consulting firm Fitch & Associates to develop the bidding process for a new ambulance service contract.

The Missouri-based agency also will provide an assessment of the county's current ambulance system, according to Kathleen Grassi, Merced County public health director.

The assessment, which is based on the board's direction, would evaluate the status of the system run by longtime provider Riggs Ambulance Service.

Grassi said the estimated deadline to complete the process is about 40 weeks.

"They were able to meet our timeline for turning this project around as quickly as possible," Grassi told the supervisors Tuesday, before they unanimously approved the contract with Fitch & Associates.

Officials hope to move forward with awarding an ambulance service contract by the end of 2013 or early 2014, she said.

"Staff are doing everything they can to work with the consultant to shorten that timeline by several weeks, if possible," Grassi said.

The county's contract with Riggs Ambulance Service expires Aug. 31, so officials didn't seek bids for a consultant to develop the bidding process because of the tight deadline. Instead, they selected Fitch & Associates, which responded to the last bid in 2011.

The consulting firm also was selected because of its previous experience in California, Grassi said. Fitch & Associates has worked on projects in Napa, Butte, Contra Costa, Alameda and San Diego counties, according to county documents.

The contract won't exceed $166,000 and would be covered by fees paid by each bidder, according to county documents. Bidders pay $10,000, and the rest is covered by the winning ambulance provider.

The decision to restart the bidding process was prompted by the county supervisors' unanimous decision in January.

At that time, the board voted to reopen the bidding after rejecting staff's recommendation to award the contract to American Medical Response.

Reporter Ramona Giwargis can be reached at (209) 385-2477 or rgiwargis@mercedsunstar.com.

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