Read Q &A with County Administrator Carissa Knapp
By Andrew Harris
Allegany County legislators on the Public Safety Committee had a closed door debate concerning a contract with Scio NY based, Medical Transport Services(MTS.) At the end of that debate, the committee immediately moved to approve a contract with MTS for an amount not to exceed $600,000 over the next six months.
The move comes as uncertainty over the future of medical transport options in Allegany County grows. Volunteer ambulance corps appear to be have become a thing of the past. Public safety officials have been warning that vital services like ambulance, fire, and rescue could be seriously undermined without action.
Allegany County issued this statement about the proposed contract with MTS:
“The Allegany County Board of Legislators has committed itself to the improvement of emergency management services within Allegany County. Throughout the year, Allegany County has initiated several measures towards that goal, including establishing an EMS Advisory Board and securing an EMS Medical Director. As the County looks for ways to ensure the long-term future of EMS services within the County, it has become clear that our future depends on securing the ambulance services that augment the dedicated efforts of our volunteer agencies. Today, the County is taking a giant step forward in these efforts by collaborating with Medical Transport Services, Inc. (MTS), the primary private provider of EMS services in Allegany County, by entering into a contract with MTS while the parties enter discussions regarding the possibility of the County assuming ambulance operations.
Please contact the County Administrator’s Office with any questions at (585) 268-9217.”
County Administrator Carissa Knapp answered some questions that we had about the agreement and explained more about the bigger picture:
WS: Will this agreement that has been approved by the Public Safety committee and the Ways and Means committee require a full board vote? Will that contract be available to the public before the October 12 meeting?
Knapp: First, yes the contract absolutely requires full Board approval and the contract will be available next week prior to the Board meeting. It will be added to the Board packet as soon as both parties’ legal teams finish their review. With that said, it might not be in the first version of the packet that our Clerk of the Board sends out. If it’s not in the first version, the packet will be amended prior to the meeting as soon as practicable.
WS: Is this a new idea or have MTS and the county been negotiating this contract?
Knapp: The collaboration and contract are both very new ideas. As many know, Medical Transport Services, Inc. (MTS) was started by Dan Marsh in 1979 and Dan and his wife Annette have owned and operated it since that time. MTS started as a small operation with Dan and one vehicle and has turned into a sizable private business that owns the only county-wide certificate of need (CON) in the County.
WS: Can you explain what a CON is ?
Knapp: If you’re unfamiliar with a CON, it’s the operating authority for an ambulance and a county-wide one means that it can operate anywhere within the County. In contrast, all other public and private EMS agencies currently operating within Allegany County only have CONs limited to much smaller geographical areas.
WS: Has the MTS business been for sale?
Knapp: Towards the end of 2020, Dan publicly announced he was working on a transition of ownership so he could eventually step down and hopefully hand the business over to someone willing to continue MTS’ service throughout Allegany County. Currently, Dan’s retirement and transition are incomplete.
At the same time Dan was working on phasing himself into retirement, the overall nature of emergency medical services was changing due to a number of factors including the impact of Covid-19, new burdensome regulations, and dwindling volunteer numbers. Due to these new challenges, the Allegany County Board of Legislators came into 2022 with emergency medical services set as one of their top priorities. Over the past few months, the Board worked to create an EMS Advisory Board, hire an EMS Medical Director, and brainstormed ideas on how to best coordinate our private and volunteer EMS agencies. One concept for improved coordination involved the County creating its own county-wide municipal CON that could potentially be used to form a system of county-wide mutual aid by allowing the County to contract with many EMS agencies under the umbrella of its own CON. The County has taken preliminary steps to research and work on this idea, but the process of creating a municipal CON could take months, if not years, to complete.
WS: Is the county considering the purchase of MTS?
Knapp: Earlier this week, MTS approached the County and asked if the County would be interested in purchasing MTS and transferring its assets and pre-established county-wide CON to the County rather than the County trying to create its own CON from scratch. The idea is definitely intriguing as it would speed up a process the County was already examining and would allow the County to dive into the deep end of EMS coordination and mutual aid rather than taking the slow wade in. While normally government is shy of deep dives, EMS is an essential service we cannot afford to delay action on for any longer than necessary. We need every volunteer and private agency to succeed and this could be an excellent opportunity for the County to makes some fast moves to better coordinate and support all of our agencies.
WS: Can you explain more about the contract itself and what comes next ?
Knapp: The contract that the Board is voting on is a contract to support MTS as the only EMS agency with a county-wide CON over the next six months. In exchange for those services, Allegany County and MTS will begin discussions on whether it makes sense for the County to acquire MTS’ operations including its assets and county-wide CON. Should that be the ultimate outcome, the funds expended on the contract will offset any purchase price. In the meantime, if MTS transitions to another owner, the funds expended on the contract could be returned to the County. In effect, the County is acting quickly to support MTS’ current county-wide operation while ensuring the County has a seat at the table as MTS looks for a new owner.
If approved, the contract will be a six-month contract and there certainly will be a lot to discuss moving forward including what a county-operated EMS agency might look like: how many staff would it have?, how would it be funded?, and how could it be organized to best enhance our volunteer agencies? While the focus of this current conversation is on MTS, the most important point to come away with is that the County is only considering this contract because the Board places an extremely high value on each and every EMS agency in the County and the Board is searching for the best avenues available to support those agencies and ensure and improve public access to EMS services across the County.
Again, this is all very new and I’m sure the County and MTS will both have more to say as we move through these conversations.
Did reading all that make you hungry? Head to Alfred NY tonight and enjoy the Rosebush on Main Street