Commissioners deny franchise requests

Published 12:00 am Sunday, August 8, 2004

WINTON – Apparently, Hertford County’s Board of Commissioners feel there is no need to allow for additional medical transport units to operate within the county.

During Monday’s regularly scheduled meeting, the Commissioners, acting upon a recommendation from the Hertford County Medical Transportation Council, denied two requests made by out-of-county businesses who each had applied for an operations franchise.

White Oak Medical Transport Service of Bertie County and Harrell’s Transport of Gates County were refused a chance to provide services within Hertford County. Ricky White, owner of White Oak Transport, was aware the Transportation Council was recommending to the Commissioners that his business be denied an operations franchise within the county. He had attended the Council’s July 27 meeting at which time the recommendation was made among five members of the 12-member board.

&uot;I’ve been told by the Hertford County Transportation Advisory Council that their recommendation to you would be to deny me a franchise in Hertford County,&uot; said White as he addressed the County Commissioners on Monday morning. &uot;But I’m here today to fight for the rights of Hertford County’s citizens and their right to freedom of choice as well as the right for my company to be one of the choices they are allowed to consider when their need for medical transport comes up.&uot;

White’s company is certified for medical transport by the state of North Carolina. He has 28 years of Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) experience and is currently a certified EMT instructor. His company employs nine others, all with four or more years of EMT experience, including his wife who is a Registered Nurse at Pitt Memorial Hospital in Greenville. She is also a certified EMT instructor.

The company provides non-emergency services to its clients – transport to and from a doctor’s office, dialysis centers, outpatient services at a hospital and nursing home transport.

&uot;We’re a 24/7, 365 day per-year convalescent service that operates at an EMT level,&uot; noted White. &uot;I feel we’re more than qualified to serve the citizens of Hertford County. We serve other counties and they welcome us with open arms, so why doesn’t Hertford County. You need to welcome new business.&uot;

White questioned if the Transportation Council was acting in the best interest of Hertford County’s citizens. He cited from a U.S. Census Bureau report that showed nearly 30 percent of Hertford County’s population is age 50-and-over; &uot;the standard age range used most by ambulance transport services,&uot; said White.

In his statement to the Commissioners, White said he felt he knew why he was being denied a franchise.

&uot;There very well may be some conflict of interest issues with the Hertford County Transportation Advisory Council,&uot; he noted. &uot;I found it amazing that I had to rely on my business competitors’ approval in order for me to conduct business in your county. It is almost the same thing as putting the fox in control of security for the hen house.&uot;

According to the minutes of the Transportation Council, the board is made-up of one representative each from the 10 medical transport organizations currently operating with franchises in Hertford County. Those 10 are Hertford County Emergency Services, Ahoskie Rescue, Bertie Ambulance Service, Med 1 Medical Transport, EastCare, Murfreesboro Rescue, Harrellsville Rescue, Winton Rescue, Como Rescue and Lewiston-Woodville Rescue.

Hertford County Manager Don Craft and Commissioner Curtis Freeman are also members of the Transportation Council. Charles Jones, Director of Hertford County Emergency Services, is chairman of the Transportation Council.

Jones and Craft were present at the July 27 meeting, along with Netta Lipscomb (Bertie Ambulance Service), Robert Cutler (Ahoskie Rescue) and Kevin Davidson (Med 1).

Upon discussion of White Oak’s application for a franchise, Lipscomb indicated she did not think there was a present need for additional service (in the county). Cutler agreed, but stated he felt it would not hurt to have a back-up to an existing back-up.

Upon a motion by Craft and a second by Jones, the Council unanimously voted to pass along a recommendation to the Hertford County Commissioners that White Oak Transport’s franchise application be denied. That decision was based upon the finding that there was not, at this time, a need for additional basic non-emergency transport services within the county. In addition, the Council felt that approving additional franchises at a time when they are not needed could adversely affect the level of service or operations of other franchises.

The franchise request made by Harrell’s Transport was also recommended to be denied based on the same observations.

&uot;No one in Hertford County currently needing transport services is being denied,&uot; said Jones. &uot;We just don’t have the volume here (to add two new franchises). Currently we have two, for-profit companies operating here. The rest are either county-paid services or volunteer units.&uot;

In his answer to the claim that Jones’ position as EMS Director as well as chairman of the Transportation Council is in, White’s words, &uot;a conflict of interest,&uot; Jones responded by saying, &uot;I receive no personal gain from this. There is no conflict of interest. The recommendation we made to deny these two requests were made unanimously by the Transportation Council. I only have one vote…mine.&uot;

After listening to both sides, the Hertford County Commissioners took action. Acting upon a motion by Commissioner Brenda Greene, the Board accepted the Transportation Council’s recommendation and denied both franchise requests.

&uot;On Hertford County’s website, a part of their mission statement reads, ‘Looking for room to expand, we have something for you’,&uot; said White following the meeting. &uot;Maybe they should think about rewording that statement.&uot;