County picks firm to lead ambulance service bid

By Ramona Giwargis / rgiwargis@mercedsunstar.comApril 18, 2013 

MERCED -- On Monday, county officials announced the name of the consulting firm selected to write the new Request for Proposal, or RFP, for the next ambulance contract bid.

Although the decision is pending final approval from the Board of Supervisors, officials have chosen Fitch & Associates, a consulting firm based in Missouri, said Mark Cowart, Merced County administrative services director.

The preliminary selection was made "based on industry experience and specific experience in California," Cowart said, adding that the firm responded to the last proposal.

A few of the Fitch & Associates' California-based projects include services for Mono, Contra Costa and Mendocino counties.

Before writing the new proposal, the consulting agency will provide a full analysis of the current ambulance system, Cowart said. Officials hope to start that process by next month.

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

The analysis is designed to "improve the stability and accountability of the system," according to Fitch & Associates' website, and "is essential to understand what is happening, why it's happening and how to facilitate improved outcomes."

County officials didn't release a bid for a consultant because of a tight time frame for making the selection, Cowart said. However, several county departments -- including Public Health and Administrative Services -- were involved in the selection process.

Timing is of the essence, and county staff hope to have the entire process -- including the awarding of an EMS contract -- wrapped up by the end of 2013, officials said.

"Providing the board approves the agreement with the consultant, then we expect work to start in May," Cowart said.

During the last bidding process, which was ultimately canceled by the Board of Supervisors, staff selected The Abaris Group to write the guidelines for the bidding process.

The Abaris Group, which expressed interest in writing the proposal this year, withdrew from its consulting role with the county after concerns surfaced regarding its relationship with a former county EMS official.

Last week, the board voted to renew the county's contract with Riggs Ambulance Service until the end of August, allowing time to complete the second EMS bidding process.

Reporter Ramona Giwargis can be reached at (209) 385-2477 or

Reporter Ramona Giwargis can be reached at (209) 385-2477 or

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