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Franchise Ordinance revisions studied

WINTON – It’s been nearly 10 years since Hertford County officials, following the state’s lead, approved an ordinance requiring emergency and non-emergency medical transport units to apply and gain approval for a franchise license in order to operate within the county’s borders.

Now, Hertford County officials are studying measures to amend the wording of that ordinance, one initially approved in 2002.

The county’s board of commissioners recessed their Tuesday evening meeting until 10 a.m. on Monday where they scheduled a work session to engage in discussion over the existing franchise ordinance. That meeting is expected to begin with a closed session.

Prior to scheduling that work session there was some brief discussion at Tuesday’s meeting (moved to Jan. 19 due to Monday’s Martin Luther King Jr. holiday observed by the county) concerning the existing ordinance.

“There are some conflicts, some problems, with our franchise ordinance,” said Commission Chairman Johnnie Ray Farmer. “We need to talk about the future of EMS (Emergency Medical Services); more or less, the transports provided by EMS.”

Farmer asked Hertford County Manager Lorie Williams if the number of annual emergency and non-emergency transports was available. She said those figures could be easily obtained through the records kept by the county EMS department. However, she would have to contact Bertie Ambulance Service in order to learn the number of annual non-emergency transports made by that company.

Currently, only Hertford County EMS and Bertie Ambulance Service have franchises to operate in the county. Over the years, other non-emergency transport providers have attempted and failed to secure a franchise.

Murfreesboro attorney Chuck Revelle, who serves as legal counsel for the Hertford County Commissioners, suggested the work session between the board and the county’s Medical Services Transportation Advisory Council. He said a draft copy of the revisions made to the existing ordinance would be ready in time for Monday’s work session.

“There has been some work on these revisions, ones suggested by the Advisory Council to allow for non-existing, non-established entities to apply for a franchise,” Revelle said. “There are some bigger picture items that need to be addressed by the board.”

Revelle went on to say that revisions to a county ordinance must be read during two open meetings of the commissioners. If those revisions are ironed out at Monday’s work session, Revelle said the updated ordinance can be introduced and read into public record for the first time at the commissioners’ next scheduled regular meeting (Feb. 1). The second reading can occur at their second meeting in February (Feb. 15) at which time it can be formally approved.

If those revisions are approved, the county will accept applications and the commissioners will consider awarding a franchise for certified, non-emergency transport providers, including those making previous applications that were tabled by the board.

In the past, those seeking a franchise to operate a non-emergency transport business in Hertford County were denied based on the county not needing the services of additional providers.