Afternoon Newsletter

January 29, 2013

Board of Supervisors vote to reopen bidding process in AMR/Riggs ambulance dispute

The Merced County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday to re-open the bidding process in the contract dispute involving Riggs Ambulance Service and American Medical Response.

The motion was put on the table by District 2 Supervisor Hub Walsh, who said the process appeared to have a few "bumps in the road."

"It seems to me that in light of some of the issues, going back out to bid is appropriate," he said. Walsh suggested that certain issues — including critical care transport, reliance on Westside Ambulance District, Status 0, and mutual aid requests — need to be more clearly defined in the new proposal.

District Five Supervisor Jerry O'Banion agreed with Walsh, saying although re-issuing the proposal may take time, it’s important to get it right.

"Staff has done an excellent job, but there are questions and it warrants going back out," O'Banion said. "I feel that we need to go back out and open it up to let anyone who wants to participate make a bid."

Supervisors clarified that reopening the request for proposal process will allow other companies to bid for the county’s ambulance contract -- not just Riggs and AMR.

Riggs officials applauded the decision, while an AMR official said the decision was politics at its worst.

"They literally put lives at risk and let down their community," said Jason Sorrick, AMR spokesman. "They put the financial interests of a single person over the 260,000 residents of Merced County."

Riggs and AMR had been in a battle for the county's ambulance contract since October, when county staff withdrew its decision to offer the contract to Riggs.

Instead, the staff recommended AMR, saying it will provide better overall service and patient care. Riggs officials maintained the bidding process was flawed and have issued multiple appeals.

More details on this breaking story will be posted later today, and full coverage of the story in tomorrow's Merced Sun-Star.

-- Sun-Star staff'

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