City to provide EMS personnel to county in 2020

Published 7:00 pm Tuesday, September 24, 2019


Effective Jan. 1, 2020, Franklin Fire & Rescue personnel will provide emergency medical and ambulance transport services not only for the city, but also Southampton County, per the terms of a contract Franklin’s City Council and Southampton County’s Board of Supervisors voted to authorize on Monday.

The contract, which the Council voted 6-1 to approve, specifies Franklin will supply two dual-certified fire and EMS personnel at each of the county’s four volunteer rescue squads: Courtland, Capron, Boykins and Drewryville. Such personnel is to consist of one firefighter/paramedic for advanced life support and one firefighter/EMT for basic life support. In exchange, the contract specifies that Southampton County will provide the city with $2,090,423 annually, payable in equal monthly installments.

According to a memorandum from City Manager Amanda Jarratt to the members of Franklin’s City Council, Medical Transport LLC recently provided Southampton County with the required 120-day notice that the company intends to cease providing the county with contracted emergency medical services, effective 11:59 p.m., Dec. 31, 2019. Her memo added that MTL — which has contracted with Southampton County for the past 18 years — made it “abundantly clear to Southampton County that their reason for canceling the contract was not related to any action, or inaction, by Southampton County or any of their Volunteer Rescue Squads.”

According to Deputy Southampton County Administrator Lynette Lowe, the reason MTL is now canceling its contract with the county is because the company recently made a business decision to go back to its core business of only providing non-emergency transports.

MTL currently provides a single advanced-life-support-certified employee during certain days and hours at each of the county’s four rescue squads for emergency calls. The contract with Franklin, Lowe said, specifies one advanced-life-support employee and one basic-life-support employee at each of the four stations 24 hours per day, seven days per week, which constitutes an increase in coverage over what MTL is providing to the county.

Low also confirmed that the contract is strictly for personnel, and will result in no transfer of any equipment assets. She added that the city’s 911 dispatch center would not be taking over for Southampton County.

Jarratt confirmed that the city would need to hire 24 additional EMS employees to meet the increased demand for Franklin Fire & Rescue personnel. She added that the $2-million-plus the county is to pay the city would be used to pay for the expenses that Franklin incurs to provide emergency medical services for Southampton County.

“This has been vetted thoroughly; I feel and we feel that we can definitely meet this obligation,” Jarratt said. “One of the primary reasons that we lose people is that they don’t see future growth opportunities in our [emergency services] department because if you look at the lieutenants and the captains positions, individuals come and they stay in those positions for a very long time, so there’s not room for anybody to grow … this expansion would provide that opportunity so we see this as a retention opportunity.”

In the event that the city’s annual cost in providing emergency medical services to the county exceeds the $2-million-plus figure, the contract specifies that the county is to true up the difference at the end of each fiscal year. Jarratt said that the true-up would only be in the city’s favor, and that if the city were to spend less than the $2-million-plus at the end of a fiscal year, the unexpended amount would go into the city’s general fund.

Should the county experience a natural disaster, such as a hurricane, or other emergency, and require more personnel than just the two city employees assigned to each volunteer rescue station, Jarratt said the county would be responsible for paying the city 100 percent of the cost of the extra personnel. She further confirmed that the 24 EMS employees would indeed be city employees, meaning they would have to meet city standards and would rotate duty assignments between the volunteer stations and the city’s downtown station.

The dissenting City Council vote came from Councilman Greg McLemore. Southampton County’s Board of Supervisors also voted 6-1 that same evening to approve the contract, with the dissenting vote coming from Franklin District Supervisor Barry Porter.