Michael Urquides

Monterey Regional Fire Chief Michael Urquides in 2019 inside district offices.

A two-year contract extension for ambulance company American Medical Response is headed for consideration by the Monterey County Board of Supervisors on Jan. 14, two and a half weeks ahead of the current contract expiring on Jan. 31, said Teresa Rios, interim Emergency Medical Services bureau chief, at a meeting of the county’s Emergency Medical Care Committee on Wednesday, Jan. 8.

The previous EMS director, Michael Petrie, had warned an extension would not be possible under state EMS rules, claiming that independent ambulance companies could flow into the county and compete for cases beginning Feb. 1. His assertion came last year during a contentious fight over a proposed new ambulance contract. That contract resulted in only one bid from AMR in May—several companies were interested when the RFP was released earlier in the year—and was subsequently rejected by the county as too expensive.

Petrie often clashed with fire chiefs from around the county, and the fight over the ambulance contract was no exception. EMCC meetings last year were tense events, with chiefs and other fire department representatives demanding Petrie give them more say in the ambulance contract, as well as the creation of new EMS regulations. Petrie said at the time that regulations regarding the awarding of government contracts prevented such input. He retired in October.

It was a new day at Wednesday’s EMCC with Ramos now in charge for the interim. She promised the committee more collaboration moving forward. Monterey Regional Fire Chief Michael Urquides said the chiefs were willing to put the past behind them.

“We don’t want another fight,” Urquides said. “It’s not healthy for relationships. It costs a lot of money in legal expenses...We don’t want to dwell on the past.”

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The EMS Agency is working on a new request for proposals, known as an RFP, and could have a draft ready for public comment by next month, Ramos said. The staff made “substantial changes,” responding to state regulation changes and removing items that inflated the cost of the last proposed contract. She also said they removed language “that was maybe too prescriptive or confusing.”

Readying a final RFP, which must go through state review and approval by the Board of Supervisors, could take up to a year before it can out for bid. In theory, a new contract would be awarded in time for the end of the AMR extension, should the supervisors approve one next week.

UPDATED: The supervisors approved the contract extension unanimously, 5-0, on Jan. 14. The new contract includes an increase of 9.4 percent of AMR's rates for cost of living and other expenses.

Editor's Note: This post was updated to include the latest information from the Monterey County Board of Supervisor's meeting on Jan. 14.

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