American Medical Response will bid for county ambulance contract

The two ambulance companies that battled for the county’s multimillion contract last year will face off again this year.

American Medical Response submitted a proposal to bid for the five-year ambulance contract, county officials confirmed Tuesday. AMR will challenge longtime provider Riggs Ambulance Service.

The proposals from AMR and Riggs still need to go through a review process to ensure they meet minimum requirements, said Kim Nausin, Merced County purchasing manager.

“We’ll make a final pass and make sure that all the documentation that’s required is in there,” Nausin said.

Officials from Falck Ambulance attended a pre-bidders conference last month, but did not submit a proposal by the 4 p.m. deadline Tuesday. Brian Hubbell, general manager with the Petaluma-based company, did not return calls for comment.

AMR and Riggs went head-to-head last year in a heated dispute after Riggs lost the ambulance contract it held for nearly 65 years. Riggs appealed the decision to award the contract to AMR, 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 the last process did not deter the company from wanting to bid again.

“The previous process is over and done with,” said Cindy Woolston, general manager for AMR in Stanislaus and Tulare counties. “We think Merced County is a good county to provide EMS services to and AMR has a lot to offer the county.”

Woolston said the company’s decision to rebid the contract was met with positive comments from people in the Merced community. “We’ve gotten some positive feedback from people that were glad to see that AMR was interested and that the last process didn’t deter us from wanting to bid again,” she said.

When asked if she thinks AMR can win the contract, Woolston said she’s confident it can.

“We don’t know what Riggs has put in their proposal, but we feel pretty confident about ours,” she said. “We feel just as confident that we’ve submitted a winning proposal.”

Riggs’ General Manager Steve Melander said the company is not surprised to see AMR bidding again, but it’s ready to fight to keep the contract.

“We feel very confident with the proposal that we put together,” Melander said. “We do feel that it’s a winning proposal, and we’re ready to keep serving the community.”

Melander said he’s confident the new bidding process will be fair and transparent, and has been more clearly defined than the last one.

“There’s been a lot of communication from the consultant firm,” he said. “I have no doubt in my mind that this process is 100 percent fair and being handled appropriately.”

As for last year’s contract dispute, Melander said Riggs is ready for a fresh start.

“That’s water under the bridge as far as we’re concerned, and we’re ready to move forward,” he said.

The Board of Supervisors last week voted unanimously to extend Riggs’ contract until the end of December, allowing for uninterrupted service while the county goes through the bidding process.

County officials estimate the proposals will go to evaluators within the next couple of weeks, with oral presentations to be given by AMR and Riggs on April 30. Officials expect to award a contract by May.