West Side Community Ambulance is bringing its own transitional management team on board while its search for a full-time operations leader continues.

The district will transition from American Medical Response (AMR) management services to local oversight this week under the temporary arrangement, said Dennis Brazil, president of the ambulance board.

The board announced last week that Josh Brace and Mike Pitassi will be sharing oversight duties until a full-time operations manager is hired and in place.

Both have ties to the local ambulance service. Brace, a Gustine resident, is a firefighter/paramedic who has been assisting the West Side staff and board through recent months as it considered future management options and planned a course forward. He is also the candidate selected to fill a part-time assistant operations management post should the board determine that position is necessary, said Brazil.

Pitassi brings extensive administrative experience with community-based ambulance services. He managed West Side Community Ambulance in the 1980s, and in 2015 returned to West Side for a brief period of time while working for the Sierra Medical Services Alliance. That company was managing West Side Community Ambulance at the time.

“They will oversee the day to day operations of the ambulance and all functions of the district, with full authorization to execute all policies and procedures,” Brazil told Mattos Newspapers. “We decided to split their roles. Mike has a lot of years of experience in the ambulance business, and Josh has a lot of years as a paramedic.”

The board authorized Brazil to negotiate contracts with Brace and Pitassi and work with them to define individual responsibilities.

AMR, which entered into a management contract with West Side in the spring of 2018 only to determine a few months later that the agreement was not sustainable, will exit its management duties as of Sept. 6, Brazil told Mattos Newspapers.

That is the expiration date of the management contract extension agreed upon by the two agencies, and Brazil said AMR had little interest in continuing past that date.

“Our first thought was that we would just try to extend it,” he remarked, “but they went almost six months extra. That was our agreement and it was fair to stick to that agreement.”

Brazil said the ambulance board hopes to have a new operations manager in place by Oct. 1.

Two finalists will go through second interviews with the board on Sept. 9, Brazil said.

He described both as Golden State natives who are currently working out of state but are interested in returning to California. “Both are highly experienced in the (emergency medical services) field,” Brazil commented.

Brazil said he sees a number of benefits to bringing in a transitional management team with local experience rather than attempting to extend arrangements for outside management.

“It is better to move on and be done with it so that we can start getting our arms around (the operation),” he commented. “It will be good to have the control back in-house. We currently run everything through AMR. This gives us a chance to see a lot of details of the day-to-day operations that we don’t see right now because AMR is taking care of them.”

Brazil said he believes all the necessary steps have been or are being taken for West Side to operate with in-house management for the first time in more than five years.

“We are working on the details to finalize it,” he said last Tuesday of the Sept. 6 transition. “Everything is on track for that to happen.”