The clock is ticking for the El Paso County Emergency Services Agency as it labors to create an ambulance service contract with American Medical Response.

The county previously had a service agreement with the City of Colorado Springs, but that will end April when Colorado Springs begins a new independent AMR contract that excludes El Paso County. The city opted for a new AMR contract that would provide faster response times and cost less.

"Currently the county is going to present a scaled down contract extension request for a period of 120 days (with American Medical Response)," ESA board chairman Jim Reid said at the ESA's monthly board meeting.

That request will be presented to AMR for review by the end of the week, he said.

AMR will respond to the request the day its's received, said spokeswoman Laura Saenz. ESA initially expected to have the ambulance contract ready in January. That changed after several board members reached out to local fire chiefs in December and learned there were still a lot of questions and ideas that needed to be hashed out, Reid said. The agency plans to establish a new board, resulting from a partnership between El Paso County and The City of Fountain.

In the meantime, Reid hopes an extension will allow the agency to determine who will be served under the new contract.

"We have to sit down with the fire chiefs and figure out who's going to participate and who's not. That way we know the way ahead," he said. "When we get to the point where we think we can get a good product, the fire chiefs will go back to their boards, those who approve will sign up, and we'll move forward." "The goal is to get the additional time so we can do that appropriately," he said.

The ESA, comprised of physicians, first-responder professionals, elected officials and citizens - has overseen shared ambulance service in Colorado Springs and El Paso County since 2006. In March, Colorado Springs announced it would pull out of the county-wide agency and seek its own ambulance service contract, prompting the ESA to start negotiations for their own ambulance contract.