A plan aimed at cutting ambulance response times throughout Calaveras County yesterday won support from the board of supervisors.

Drafted by the Emergency Medical Services Task Force, an 11-member group appointed by supervisors, the plan calls for the county to be divided into zones, and for a different ambulance company to serve each zone.

It also calls for building, equipment and staffing upgrades at the Calaveras County Sheriff's Department dispatch center, where most emergency calls are routed. All calls should go through that dispatch center, the plan says.

Each supervisor voiced support for the Task Force plan at a study session yesterday. Board Chairman Paul Stein directed Health Services Agency Director Jeanne Boyce to draft an ordinance.

A key job will be deciding how many ambulance zones there should be.

"The Task Force did its best, and I strongly support and recommend that supervisors consider the report that has been made," said Larry Buswell of San Andreas, a member of the panel.

But not everyone was pleased.

Valley Springs resident Alice Raine feared open competition for each zone contract would give bigger companies, such as American Medical Response, an unfair advantage over small, locally owned competitors.

"I think we could lose some of the finest people who live here and work with the ambulance service," Raine said.

The Task Force was created in response to growing conflicts among local ambulance providers and emergency personnel.

With up to seven ambulance companies operating Calaveras County now, disputes have broken out over who responds to certain calls. Ambulance providers are paid based on call volumes.

Calaveras County has no rules on how many ambulance companies can operate. Boyce said that this, combined with constant demand, has brought more companies to the market.