A federal judge approved a reorganization plan for the troubled Rural/Metro ambulance company that serves Santa Clara County, paving the way for it to emerge from bankruptcy in the next few weeks, company officials said Tuesday.

According to company President Scott Bartos, Rural/Metro will come out of Chapter 11 with its debt slashed in half.

"We are enhancing our infrastructure and technology that support our state-of-the-art medical transportation and fire services," he said in a news release, adding that the operational model for first-responders was revised in November.

The expected announcement came a week after Santa Clara County supervisors voted to amend the county's contract with the company, moving $2.6 million out of a $5 million trust fund paid into by Rural/Metro.

That money is to be used to pay for local fire departments that respond to 911 emergencies before Rural/Metro, as well as other county emergency services. Rural/Metro was barred from using any of its own assets as it went through bankruptcy court.

Rural/Metro also announced on Tuesday that it will invest $40 million to add more that 70 ambulances, six fire trucks and other equipment to its stock, as well as develop a new accounting system.

However, company spokeswoman Marisa Melo said that boost won't be headed to Santa Clara County, but to its Arizona fleet.

"We're good here," she said. "We've outperformed the emergency response time requirement called for in our contract with Santa Clara County.


County officials blasted the company earlier this year for missing response deadlines, costing Rural/Metro $4.7 million in fines -- which went to the fund that was tapped into last week.

The company took over the county ambulance contract in July 2011, and the Board of Supervisors must decide by June whether to renew the deal or put it out to bid.

Rural/Metro provides emergency ambulance and fire services in 21 states and nearly 700 communities, according to a company statement.

Contact Eric Kurhi at 408-920-5852. Follow him at Twitter.com/erickurhi.