Franchise ordinance remains viable

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, April 5, 2005

WINDSOR – One could nearly hear the collective sighs of relief at the Bertie County Board of Commissioners meeting here Monday morning.

There, the meeting room was packed, some attending in regards to a scheduled public hearing on the matter of the county’s proposal to implement an ordinance regulating emergency medical services (EMS).

The Commissioners, at their March 21 meeting, put in a plan in motion that regulates its EMS operation as well as granting franchises to EMS services and ambulance operators who provide non-emergency transport.

Before the floor was opened for public comment, County Manager Zee Lamb did address one thing said at last month’s meeting.

&uot;The county attorney did state at that meeting that no one currently providing emergency or non-emergency medical transport would be grand fathered in,&uot; Lamb said. &uot;They would need to apply for a franchise, just as a new provider would be required to do.&uot;

Lamb clarified the statement by telling those interested parties, &uot;To alleviate any fears, the existing (transport) services will receive favorable consideration for an approved franchise, providing all of their paperwork is submitted and that it meets the requirements of the ordinance.&uot;

With that said, Commissioner Wallace Perry stated, &uot;There is no truth to the rumor that we are considering this franchise ordinance to put any existing transport service out of business.&uot;

None of those in attendance at Monday’s meeting voiced any displeasure over the proposed ordinance. However, two transport providers did question one portion of the ordinance as it is currently written. That section of the ordinance dealt with individuals driving the ambulances. It reads: &uot;No person shall drive an ambulance, attend a patent in one or permit one to be operated when transporting a patient within the County of Bertie unless the person currently holds a valid certificate as issued by the North Carolina Department of Human Resources, Office of Emergency Medical Services.&uot;

The transport providers raised issue to the wording of that section of the ordinance. They expressed concern due to the fact that their current drivers are not EMT certified and did not feel they should undergo this additional training just to drive the vehicle.

Ricky Freeman, Bertie EMS Director, explained that the Bertie version of the ordinance was based upon the same wording he found in the ones currently in use in Hertford, Northampton and Pitt counties.

&uot;The basic outline of these ordinances is pretty much standard,&uot; Freeman said.

County Attorney Lloyd Smith pointed out that the ordinance was written to follow state guidelines. However, Smith said the state is often lenient when it comes to the wording of certain parts of the ordinance. ensuring it meets state requirements.

Smith was instructed to meet with Freeman in an effort to iron out the wording to that particular section of the proposed ordinance, ensuring it meets state requirements.

&uot;Let me say that we’re not here today to pass this ordinance,&uot; closed Board Chairman Rick Harrell. &uot;We are hearing public comment from where we will take your suggestions into how the final draft of this ordinance will appear.&uot;

Another public hearing on the issue will be held. Although no date was confirmed, that hearing may come as early as May 2.