Franchise ordinance approved

Published 9:35 am Thursday, February 18, 2010

WINTON – The newly revised Hertford County franchise ordinance gained unanimous approval here Monday night.

Now the question is what businesses will gain the favor of the county’s Board of Commissioners as they seek a franchise that grants them the right to provide non-emergency medical transport to residents of the county?

That answer will not be revealed until next month.

Upon opening the door for new franchises –the county’s residents are currently served only by Hertford County EMS and Bertie Ambulance Service – the commissioners were handed a list of three potential candidates. Those applying were Health Link of Williamston, Med Ex Medical Transport Service of Ahoskie and White Oak Medical Transport of Windsor. The latter is no stranger to the commissioners as White Oak has previously applied for a franchise, only to be denied based on county officials stating there was not a need for the services of additional providers.

Hertford County Manager Loria Williams confirmed that White Oak has previously sought a franchise, as has Health Link, but under a different name.

Meanwhile, Med Ex is a fledging new company. Under the old ordinance, Med Ex would have been automatically removed from consideration because they were not an established entity.

“The new ordinance allows for start-up businesses to apply for a franchise as long as they can reasonably meet the requirements of this ordinance within 150 days of making the application,” said Murfreesboro attorney Chuck Revelle who serves as legal counsel to the commissioners. “That allows that business to gain a permit required by the state (to operate such a business) and then come back to you to gain a local franchise once it’s proven they have met all the requirements of the ordinance.”

However, before the commissioners learned of the three new applicants, that paperwork was reviewed by the county’s Medical Service Transportation Advisory Council. They met earlier on Monday and found the applications of Med Ex and White Oak to be in order and recommended approval of franchises for those two businesses. Health Link’s application was found to be missing the required financial information on the company, leading the Advisory Council to disapprove their bid for a franchise.

Upon receiving the recommended applications, the commissioners began to pour over the information.

Commissioner DuPont Davis questioned the difference in the fees charged by Med Ex and White Oak. His concerns were addressed by Revelle, who advised Davis that he should only be concerned with section 4.4 of the revised franchise ordinance when pondering a decision to approve or disapprove.

Section 4.4 reads: A franchise may be recommended by the Council and granted by the Board of Commissioners if it is found that:

(a) The applicant meets state standards and standards outlined in the franchise ordinance, or is reasonably expected to meet such standards within 150 days of granting of a franchise; provided, no patients may be transported unless and until all standards are met.

(b) The proposed service will fit within the existing service so as not to adversely affect the level of service or operations of other franchisees to render service.

(c) A need exists for the proposed service in order to improve the level of ambulance services available to residents of the county and that this is a reasonable cost effective manner of meeting the need.

Commissioner Curtis Freeman suggested the board take additional time to study the new applicants.

“We just received these applications tonight; I motion we table this decision until our next meeting in order to have more time to go over these applications,” Freeman said.

The motion was approved by a 5-0 vote.

The next regularly scheduled meeting of the commissioners is 10 a.m. on Monday, March 1.

Other key changes in the revised ordinance include:

Those holding a county franchise are required annually to provide a financial statement that shows strength and stability of the provider.

All currently franchised ambulance service providers and any additional franchises granted prior to June 30, 2010 are hereby continued as franchisees until June 30, 2011, provided said franchisees remain in compliance with this ordinance. Thereafter, all franchises shall run from July 1 to June 30 of the following year. It is anticipated that a review of all franchisees shall occur in April of each year.

The term “patient” means an individual who is sick, injured, wounded, or otherwise incapacitated or helpless such that the need for some medial assistance might be anticipated while being transported to or from a medical facility; provided that a person being transported in a vehicle equipped to handle a wheelchair, or being transported for routine dialysis, when there is not a reasonable expectation that medical assistance might be anticipated while being transported, shall not be considered a patient.

No franchise is required for any entity transporting patients who are picked up beyond the limits of the County of Hertford, for transportation to facilities located within the County of Hertford.

As required by law, an ordinance (in this case, a revised ordinance) must be approved during two readings at separate meetings. The commissioners followed that rule by first approving the measure at their Feb. 3 meeting and again on Monday night (Feb. 15).