Two AMR ambulances parked outside Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital.
Two AMR ambulances parked outside Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital. The county Board of Supervisors will decide on Tuesday whether to award an exclusive ambulance-services contract to American Medical Response.

The contract to provide exclusive ambulances services in Santa Barbara County will again be going before the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, when the board is set to make some kind of decision to move the process forward.

The contract has been the subject of contention between the Santa Barbara County Fire Department and American Medical Response, both of which submitted proposals for the contract that will go into effect in March 2024.

AMR is the current, longtime ambulance and emergency medical services provider in the county, and its proposal was ranked higher than County Fire’s proposal by a five-person review panel — with 317.75 points separating the two proposals.

After the county issued a notice of intent to award the contract to AMR in October, County Fire Chief Mark Hartwig filed a protest against the decision, alleging that AMR’s proposal was “nonresponsive and had misleading claims.”

The protest was denied by the county’s procurement officer, after which Hartwig filed an appeal to the denial.

A protest resolution committee then reviewed and denied the appeal in February, upholding the county procurement officer’s original decision to deny the protest.

County Fire has continued its fight to be considered though, as fire chiefs from across the county came together last week to show their support for the county Fire Department.

During Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting, the board has several options to move the process forward, including authorizing the Public Health Department director to negotiate an exclusive contract for ambulance services with AMR or even cancelling the ambulance request-for-proposals in part or in whole.

If the board were to decide that cancelling the RFP is in the best interests of the county, it would then have to provide further direction to staff.

Options in this direction include starting a new procurement process altogether, updating the current agreement with AMR, letting AMR’s current exclusive agreement expire and entering into a non-exclusive ambulance arrangement, or exploring other options for ambulance service delivery.

The county Public Health Department’s recommendation is for the board to authorize the public health director to negotiate the contract with AMR.

According to the item’s staff report and presentation for Tuesday’s meeting, AMR’s proposal included many EMS system enhancements, such as dedicated behavioral health transport vehicles and increased behavioral health collaborations, an air and ground transport subscription program, a fleet of 34 new ambulances, automatic CPR devices and video-assisted airway placement devices, the purchase and deployment of public access AEDs throughout the county, and more.

The Board of Supervisors meeting is taking place at 9 a.m. Tuesday in the board hearing room at the County Administration Building, 105 E. Anapamu St. in Santa Barbara.

The meeting can be viewed in person or by livestream on the county’s YouTube page.

Serena Guentz, Noozhawk Staff Writer

Noozhawk staff writer Serena Guentz can be reached at