A private emergency medical provider could soon be responding to emergency calls in unincorporated parts of the county. A new contract would allow Medical Emergency Ambulance, also called Medic, to provide service when one of the company’s units is closest to an incident.
After approving the franchise in a split vote during its meeting on March 5, the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners will vote on the terms of a contract with Medic on March 19.
Commissioners approved the franchise on the condition that Medic pass an inspection from the N.C. Office of Emergency Medical Services, which county records show it passed on March 6.
The agreement would begin Monday, April 1, and last for one year. Under the contract, the county will require Medic to have two ambulances in service for emergency and convalescent transport from 7 a.m.-9 p.m. and one ambulance from 9 p.m.-7 a.m.
The agreement prohibits Medic from “self-dispatching” to emergency calls and requires the company to station vehicles in locations assigned by the county’s 911 center, something Medic president Kermit Tolley says his company already does.
The county would also require Medic to pay for any costs associated with installing automatic vehicle locators and radios or other communications equipment in order to keep vehicles in contact with EMS dispatchers.
Some commissioners expressed concern that granting the franchise could cut into the revenue generated by the county’s volunteer fire departments, which operate EMS services.
Buncombe County has been using Medic to respond to emergencies when other ambulances are engaged, which technically falls outside the legal framework of the agreement that the company has with the county.
“What we have been doing is outside the franchise ordinance,” Tolley told the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners on Feb. 5. “We’re merely trying to come within the legalities of the ordinance to continue doing what we’re doing.”
In other business
- Commissioners will decide whether to hold agenda pre-meetings before their regular meetings on the first and third Tuesdays of every month. The pre-meetings would occur at noon in the ground floor conference room at 200 College St. and provide an opportunity for commissioners to confer with county staff. If approved, these meetings would begin with the board’s Tuesday, April 2, meeting.
- Commissioners will discuss a resolution in support of a plan to connect Asheville with passenger rail service in Salisbury. A letter from the Western North Carolina Rail Committee says that Amtrak has indicated willingness to operate a bus connection from Asheville. According to the letter, the state legislature is considering an allocation to operate the service. “We need letters of support from community, organizations and agencies along the route,” the committee says. “Since the budget process in the legislature must be completed by June, we need action immediately as we make our case for re-establishing a passenger rail connection to Western North Carolina.”
- Commissioners will also consider a series of contracts, including one related to restroom renovation and roof replacement at Hall Fletcher Elementary School and exterior remediation, repair and cleaning at the county courthouse, the county administrative building and the county detention center.
The Buncombe County Board of Commissioners will meet 5 p.m. Tuesday, March 19, in the third floor conference room at 200 College St. in downtown Asheville. Read the full agenda and supporting documents here.