The white and blue Sonoma Life Support ambulances you see around much of central Sonoma County will soon be switching to bright red.
Sonoma County has selected a new ambulance provider for the first time in three decades.
It was neither quick nor pretty, but on Tuesday the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors unanimously selected the Sonoma County Fire District as ambulance provider for a large chunk of the county's middle, including Rohnert Park, Sebastopol, Cotati, and Santa Rosa.
The decision comes after contentious back and forth between the county and American Medical Response - AMR, the company which operates Sonoma Life Support.
AMR executive Nicole Henricksen said the bid selection was seriously flawed.
"This process is flawed and biased," Henricksen said. "AMR scored higher in nine of the 12 categories. I respectably ask the board to throw out this tainted and inequitable RFP process and start over."
The scores Henricksen noted are from the county’s own bidding process.
AMR narrowly topped Sonoma County Fire District in all but two categories, most notably though, the Fire District finances were ranked well above AMR - ultimately scoring Sonoma County Fire District higher overall.
Sonoma County officials pointed to AMR’s failure to submit financial documents from the last five years as a major reason for their low financial rating.
AMR alleged an unfair bidding process and has filed complaints which the county ultimately denied.
AMR executives have said they plan to sue the county over the award decision, and took particular issue with Sonoma County Fire District’s ambulance service subcontractor: Medic Ambulance.
But Santa Rosa Fire Chief Scott Westrope said ambulance services ultimately should rest with the fire district, a public agency.
"We have also remained stalwart in our belief that the public entity is best suited for this model cause it is how the fire services existed and operated for centuries," Westrope said.
County official Ken Tasseff said base fees for ambulance rides were another deciding factor.
"SCFD's fees were substantially lower than AMR's," Tasseff said.
The Fire District’s $3,100 base fee for advanced life support service is well below AMR’s proposed rate of $3,900.
Sonoma County Fire District managers said they hope to hire the EMT’s currently working for AMR.
The firetruck red ambulances of Sonoma County Fire District will take over as sole ambulance provider in central Sonoma County for five years starting in January 2024.