Riggs Ambulance Service wins Merced County bidding process

rgiwargis@mercedsunstar.comMay 16, 2014 

Merced County officials announced Friday that Riggs Ambulance Service won the bidding process for the county’s ambulance contract, issuing a letter to launch contract negotiations with the longtime provider.

“I can confirm the letters did go out today and that the selection was Riggs,” said Mark Cowart, the county’s director of administrative services.

County officials denied the Merced Sun-Star’s request for a copy of the letter Friday, requiring the newspaper to submit a Public Records Act request for the document.

A letter of intent to award a contract is typically the first step in contract negotiations with a provider, Cowart said, adding that the county hopes to wrap up contract negotiations before Riggs’ contract expires at the end of December.

Riggs submitted its proposal under both Riggs and Sierra Medical Services Alliance, or SEMSA, the company’s Nevada-based nonprofit partner.

The 66-year provider was being challenged by AMR for the second year in a row. A heated dispute brewed last year after Riggs lost the ambulance contract to AMR and appealed the decision, claiming the bidding process was flawed.

A controversial decision by the Board of Supervisors in January 2013 canceled the award to AMR and restarted the bidding.

AMR officials said Friday the company is disappointed in the recent decision but said it hasn’t yet seen how its proposal scored against that of Riggs.

“You’re always disappointed when you don’t win an RFP (Request for Proposal),” said Cindy Woolston, general manager for AMR in Stanislaus and Tulare counties. “All I know is that Riggs was selected as most responsive to the RFP, but I have no idea what they scored, what we scored and where they scored higher than us.”

Cowart said the bidders have three business days from Friday to ask for a “debrief,” which outlines the scoring for each proposal. AMR would then have 14 days from Friday to file a protest.

Woolston said the company will request a debrief before deciding if it will appeal the decision. “We can’t answer that question until we go through debriefing,” she said.

Local vendor preference points – which are awarded to the incumbent provider for having knowledge of the area – were not factored into this year’s request for proposal, officials said.

The Merced County ambulance contract is for five years but allows an extension for an additional five years. The winning bidder is required to pay the county $75,000 at the start of the contract.

Woolston said AMR has had a “good working relationship” with Riggs and looks forward to continuing that relationship.

“We put in what we felt was a strong proposal and the selection committee felt that Riggs was more responsive,” Woolston said. “It is what it is. You win some, you lose some. You just never know which way these things are going to go.”

Riggs General Manager Steve Melander said Friday the company was confident that it had submitted a winning proposal.

“From my perspective and the team’s perspective, it wasn’t a surprise,” Melander said. “We weren’t shocked we won the proposal. We submitted a very high-quality proposal, and we’ve been doing such great work here for 66 years, and we continue to improve on what we do.

“We’re proud to be able to continue the legacy and serve the community for the next 10 years,” he said.

Sun-Star staff writer Ramona Giwargis can be reached at (209) 385-2477 or rgiwargis@mercedsunstar.com.

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