Today, the County of Santa Clara Board of Supervisors approved a franchise agreement with Rural/Metro Corporation as the exclusive provider of 911 Emergency Medical Ambulance Services in Santa Clara County.  

The decision, a 3-2 vote with Supervisor Dave Cortese, Supervisor George Shirakawa, and Supervisor Mike Wasserman supporting the contract, follows a two-and-a-half year process.

“This has been a lengthy, comprehensive and transparent process,” said Supervisor Cortese, District 3. “While we have enjoyed a good relationship with AMR for the past several decades, that cannot be the basis for this decision.  The Rural/Metro contract will be more beneficial to county residents.”

State regulations require that counties such as Santa Clara County, which operate Exclusive Operating Areas for ambulance services to periodically issue a competitive Request for Proposals (RFP).  

The current RFP process began in May 2009, with formal and informal meetings with various stakeholders, including the cities, fire chiefs, hospitals and a variety of personnel that work in the emergency medical field. A consultant was retained to manage the process, draft RFP documents, and review and validate the financial status of proposers. A formal Request for Proposals was issued and submissions were evaluated.   In October, the Board of Supervisors authorized staff to begin negotiations with Rural/Metro.

“We are pleased with the outcome of contract negotiations,” said County Executive Jeffrey V. Smith.  “The contract will ensure high quality service to county residents.   We have built into the contract increased penalties if Rural/Metro fails to meet response times. We are requiring a $5 million performance bond, and a $1.5 million franchise fee which will enable us to put a 24/7 monitoring system in place.”  

The contract also requires that Rural/Metro purchase 55 state-of-the-art ambulances to provide better service.  Changes service provides will have minimal impact on existing staff.  All qualified EMT will be hired by Rural/Metro and other staff will have preferential status for any openings.  Rural/Metro will operate fewer 24-hour shifts than are currently operated.

“I am comfortable that the new contract will be an improvement for our community,” said Supervisor George Shirakawa, District 2.  “During these tough economic times, we not only have to be stewards of County resources, we also have to consider how our decisions will impact what residents will have to pay for services.”   

Supervisor Liz Kniss, District 5 and Board President Ken Yeager, District 4 were the dissenting votes.  Kniss indicated that she preferred that the process be vetted more with constituents through a public workshop.

“I’ve moved a little on this issue,” said Yeager. “Initially I was uncomfortable and ready to toss out both bids. I am worried that there are still some questions and concerns in community and the cities.”  

“The County conducted a competitive process that produced an agreement which will increase the level of service for our residents for a lower cost,” said Supervisor Mike Wasserman, District 1.

At Kniss’ request, the administration will provide quarterly reports on Rural/Metro’s performance on the contract.