Gates County studies Medical Transport Ordinance

Published 10:35 am Wednesday, August 18, 2010

GATESVILLE – Following the lead of other counties in North Carolina, including those in the local Roanoke-Chowan area, Gates County officials are currently studying a Medical Transport Franchise Ordinance.

The granting of a Franchise means a certificate is issued by the board of commissioners granting the right, privilege and duty to operate an ambulance service for the purpose of transporting emergency or non-emergency patients to and from medical facilities.

“The reason why we need this is there is no system currently in place to decide who can and cannot come in to provide medical transport in Gates County,” said County Manager Toby Chappell in his presentation of the first draft of an ordinance to the local board of commissioners.

“There’s no way to include or exclude anyone,” Chappell continued. “What is recommended, and what I recommend as well, is to put a system in place so we can have some type of order and structure in who can operate or not operate as a medical transport provider in the county. That’s all this ordinance will do. All you are doing today is looking at and hopefully improving the structure; you are not saying this company is in or this company is out.”

“There is a fee involved in applying to be a provider for Gates County and the activation of a yearly fee to operate in Gates County,” Commission Chairman Graham Twine said. “One of the problems I see with that is we’ve got a local company that’s been with the county for over 20 years and I would like to see any company that’s been in place at the acceptance of this be excluded; have all fees waived.”

“Maybe you can get some guidance from (Hertford County Manager) Loria Williams; they’ve gone through this recently,” Commissioner Carlton Nickens said.

The draft ordinance mentions that a $500 application fee is required. Upon being granted a franchise there is an annual renewal fee of $2,500 plus a $100 per vehicle fee.

“What does the fee cover; obviously there will be some administrative costs to receive an application,” noted Commissioner Henry Jordan. “If we establish this ordinance there will be some record keeping, some monitoring; some certain things we’ll need to look at to see if the businesses are worthy to remain certified. The application fee will partly pays that. Will the existing providers be excluded from the annual inspections.”

“I would recommend that they are not excluded,” Chappell answered. “They need to be held to the same standards.”

Phyllis Harrell, owner/operator of Harrell Medical Transport, agreed that her company needs to be held to certain standards. However, she took issue with the annual renewal fees.

“It’s in here (the draft ordinance) that your records are to be turned over and you will be audited, I have absolutely no problem with that,” Harrell said. “I do feel that having two businesses in Gates County since 1981 and still working here that it’s not fair; if you add all this together my fees are $4,100 because it’s $100 per truck to operate and I have eleven trucks. Well, Joe Blowe comes in here with one truck…that’s $100.”

Harrell continued, “We need a balance here of fairness. Are they (new transport providers) going to establish a business here and pay taxes here in the county like I’ve done for the last 30 years or are they going to stay over in Ahoskie or Greenville or Williamston, wherever they are coming out of to do work here, but they’re only going to have a one-time fee and the county really makes no more money from them.”

Harrell said she wasn’t opposed to how some of the proposed ordinance is currently written.

“I’m not saying that the proposal is bad in all senses, it’s not; it keeps everybody honest,” she noted. “We operate in Pasquotank County and we give them all the transport reports that you are asking for here, but we do not pay a dime to be over there. I’m not saying you need to exempt me 100 percent if that’s the rule you want to make, but I do say that with the size business we already run in this county and someone comes in here with one truck and I have eleven trucks; someone comes in here from out of the county and I’m here in the county, that it needs to be looked at a little bit differently.”

Jordan said he agreed with Harrell.

“ I think that the fact there’s an established business here, there’s obviously tax revenue coming in; for someone just coming into the county there is a lot of difference,” Jordan stated. “If we are going to do annual certifications, inspections and audits, I think the grandfather clause is fine, but I think we should establish for grandfathered businesses in the county, not transients, there should be an annual certification fee that covers our administrative fee to keep up with these records.”

Jordan suggested a flat $500 renewal fee for grandfathered businesses.

“I would agree to that,” Harrell said.

At that point a motion was put on the floor and approved to table this issue until more information could be gained from Gates County Emergency Management Director Billy Winn who was not in attendance at the recent commissioners’ meeting.