Out for bid again

// City's search for service starts over

Tacoma Fire Department (TFD) will re-issue a solicitation for private ambulance services, after Tacoma City Council rejected a bid recommendation to award the contract last fall.

Department staff had recommended awarding it to American Medical Response (AMR), based in Greenwood Village, Colo. Five council members agreed with an appeal from the runner-up, Rural Metro of Greater Seattle. The Everett company claimed the bid process was unclear about the city assessment for dispatch services. The dispatch fees were the only part of the bid where AMR scored higher than Rural Metro.

TFD handles advanced life support services and transport. Since 2004 Rural Metro has held the contract to provide basic life support emergency services.

On May 10 the council was briefed on the situation by three TFD officials: Medical Services Officer Roger Edington, Assistant Chief Jim Duggan and Mike Fitzgerald, assistant to the chief for finance and data management.

Edington said representatives of both companies have been briefed on the process to refine contract language, and they offered feedback.

“They were very helpful,” he remarked. A consultant will assist with the process, he added.

The city will issue a request for proposals on May 24. There will be two pre-submittal meetings in June. Proposals are due July 26.

Since the city provides the dispatch service at a considerable cost, it cannot let a private company use it for free, Duggan explained. Unlike the last contract, this one will include the charge as a pre-calculated requirement, rather than have it as a competitive factor.

“They will know how much their fee to the city should be,” Fitzgerald remarked.

Edington told council members not to be surprised if this contract award is contested by the loser. That was the case in Tacoma last year and in 2004. He mentioned contracts in Orlando, Fla. and three California cities last year. Both companies do business around the nation and are very competitive, he noted.

Mayor Marilyn Strickland said appealing contracts is a common business practice for the two companies.

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