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Ambulance Decision Met with Outrage

By Vanessa Turner

Local residents are outraged that Calaveras County´s ambulance service might be given to an out-of-town company at the expense of shutting down two local businesses.

A group of people came to the Board of Supervisors meeting Monday to express their concern over the county´s emergency medical services agency, Mountain Valley, and its selection process for a new ambulance vendor.

The board agreed to hold a study session on the issue March 14.

This process began in 2002 when officials formed a committee to revamp the emergency services system.

The result of the process was a recommendation to create three exclusive ambulance-operating zones instead of the current five-zone free-for-all.

A request for proposals was sent out and it is being recommended that the bid go to American Legion Ambulance out of Amador County, giving them exclusive service in the two zones from Murphys to Copperopolis and West Point to Wallace, including Mountain Ranch and San Andreas. Ebbetts Pass Fire District will continue to serve residents of the upper Highway 4 corridor.

The other present companies n American Medical Response, San Andreas Ambulance and Valley Springs Ambulance n will not be allowed to answer emergency calls or transfer patients to and from Mark Twain St. Joseph´s Hospital.

Neither AMR nor Valley Springs Ambulance submitted bids.

“This project was drawn up with Legion in mind,” Valley Springs Ambulance President Bill McFall said. “That´s why I didn´t spend money on a bid.”

Mountain Valley´s board, which Supervisor Bill Claudino sits on, will make a final decision in April.

Ed Anderson of Burson urged the Board of Supervisors to do something about the situation, such as terminate its contract with Mountain Valley.

Greg Pilkington of San Andreas called for an independent investigation for how the RFP process was handled.

John Rain of Valley Springs said the recommendation has no logic and told the board to do its job and not to make itself look any worse.

“We want you to get rid of Mountain Valley,” Brian Santos of San Andreas Ambulance said.

“How can you even think about putting two companies out of business?” he asked.

San Andreas Ambulance submitted a bid that failed to make it through the review process.

“We didn´t get a walk through,” Santos said. “They didn´t even come look at what we do.”

Stacey McBride, also of San Andreas Ambulance, asked the board to hold the study session.

“I like having a choice to shop at Angels Food or Savemart,” McBride said. “You´re taking (the public´s) choice and giving it to an agency out of Modesto.”

Al Duncan of Valley Springs said he can´t understand how the board can take a service away and bring in an Amador County service.

“You´re supplementing Amador with money,” Duncan said. “We don´t need a loss of any two businesses.”

Wendy McBride, Stacey´s mom stood up to say San Andreas Ambulance has been a good employer for her daughter.

“It´s not easy to find good substantial jobs in the county,” Wendy McBride said.

Alice Rain, who sat on the committee, said, “It´s required you have public study sessions as this thing progresses.”

Supervisor Merita Callaway asked Rain to show her where it´s written that a study session be held. Rain said she would and the next day County Administrative Officer Tom Mitchell announced the March 14 session.

“We do owe the public a full explanation,” Supervisor Steve Wilensky said.

Dale Jones, owner of San Andreas Ambulance, said his proposal was judged on his writing capabilities, not the service he delivers.

“If we´re losing our ambulance company over writing, that´s a shame,” he said. “If it´s because of service, I will leave.”

Contact at Vanessa Turner

Reprinted with permission from Calaveras Enterprise