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Fire Not Out Yet Over Ambulance Contract

On tap are two-five year extensions with AMR, with a five-year wind down period should the county decide to accept bids from other providers.

The Murrieta City Council was expected to sign a resolution Tuesday, formally asking the Riverside County Board of Supervisors to support a bid process for the county's ambulance services.

A special meeting was called for 8:30 a.m., with that the only item on the agenda. Service to Murrieta and much of western Riverside County, along with unincorporated areas, is provided by American Medical Response, the largest provider in the U.S., through a contract initiated by Riverside County Emergency Medical Services Agency.

The county's contract began with AMR in 1998, and has been extended every three years since. With the current contract ending in June 2012, the Board of Supervisors are scheduled for a Monday, Oct. 17, workshop, during which they will discuss the county's emergency services and contract with AMR. On tap are two-five year extensions with AMR, with a five-year wind down period should the county decide to accept bids from other providers.

Murrieta Fire Chief Matt Shobert said that would take AMR through 2027, for "in essence, a $95-million-a-year contract."

The City Council resolution comes after AMR notified the Murrieta Fire Department last week that it would no longer lease space at two of the city's fire departments. The leases have been in place since 1998.

Shobert said he had a lunch meeting in June with AMR Operations Manager Jim Price to discuss, among other items, a lease increase. AMR has been paying around $1,000 month since the lease began, Shobert said.

AMR ambulances are located at Fire Stations Nos. 2 and 3, on California Oaks and Whitewood roads.

"That barely covers wear and tear of the garage doors," Shobert said. "They have access to the full facility--crew quarters, kitchen, the gym."

He said he did his homework, and found that comparable leases are going for between $1,600 and $2,500. Curious as to whether AMR had decided if it was willing to up its monthly rent, Shobert emailed Price in July.

Price's response, according to an email obtained by Patch, was that a retraction needed to be made about a comment made by Murrieta City Councilman Alan Long regarding AMR's response times in the city. Long is a battalion chief for the Anaheim Fire Department.

"..the comments raised (by) your council member during EMCC will need to be addressed. If the City has an official opinion that there is 'grave' concern over AMR’s performance within the city, then we’ll need to look at alternate locations in order to eliminate some of the delay created by responding from your stations. If that is not the official opinion of Murrieta then there will need to be some type of retraction made before I can move forward with a new contract..." Price wrote.

Long told The Press-Enterprise Monday that although he could not remember exactly what he said, his comments were directed at the county’s emergency management system as a whole and that he was not going to take them back.

“Our system is old, it’s inefficient, and the residents of our cities and Riverside County deserve better,” Long told The Press-Enterprise.

Patch sought comment from Price via email Monday about the lease cancellation, but did not receive a response. A call to AMR's Colorado headquarters was not returned Monday afternoon.

attended by Riverside County's director of emergency services that it was concerned about response times.

The response time for Murrieta fire crews, which have at least one paramedic assigned to each call, are six minutes, 30 seconds. AMR's contracted response time with the county is nine minutes, 59 seconds, 90 percent of the time, sent to the county's emergency services agency.

Shobert expressed that the two stations losing ambulances are near the retirement communities of The Colony and Murrieta Hot Springs, where the most calls for emergency services tend to come from.

"AMR is doing a fine job, I would just argue there should be more of them strategically located thoughout the city."

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