Emmitsburg Ambulance Co. Chief Steven
King took the floor at the Emmitsburg town meeting Monday
night to defend the company's decision to begin a
fee-per-service billing program.
He said that since Oct. 8, the company
has been billing insurance companies $300 for each call
requiring ambulance transport. The money would go toward
supplies, fuel and other equipment costs.
King said the company would continue
the billing program, despite receiving an Oct. 18 letter from
Frederick County Board of Commissioners President David Gray
(R) telling it to stop. In the letter, Gray cited Section
2-8-6 of the Frederick County Code, which states that the
commissioners shall regulate "all fire and rescue
services in the county and the municipal corporations of the
King said the company disputes the
county's interpretation of county law, saying it gives the
commissioners authority over fire-rescue tax districts, not
Frank Davis, chief of the Vigilant
Hose Co. in Emmitsburg, asked King why the company did not
wait until countywide ambulance billing was implemented next
"Frederick County has been
talking about billing now for over a year," King replied.
He said that even if an anticipated countywide
pay-per-transport system goes into effect next year, the
company would continue its billing.
Unlike Emmitsburg, King contended,
most of the county would be "double-dipped" under
the countywide program, paying both the fire-rescue tax and
the ambulance fees.
He said that Emmitsburg Ambulance
started its program as the result of an April 29 letter from
then-president of the Frederick County Volunteer Fire and
Rescue Association (FCVFRA) Charles E. Abrecht. In the letter,
King said, the company was told that its operating budget
would plummet from $56,000 to $6,000 in fiscal year 2003
because of Emmitsburg's exemption from the two-tiered county
fire-rescue tax system enacted in April 2001.
"There's no way can operate if
this happens," King told the Emmitsburg Town Council.
In fact, the letter stated that the
FCVFRA's task force was recommending to county commissioners
that they request in the legislative packet to the Maryland
General Assembly that both operational and capital expenses be
funded by the tax districts. Currently, only capital expenses
are funded by the tax districts; operational expenses come out
of the county's general fund.
Abrecht stated that the request would
require state legislative approval. If passed, Emmitsburg
Ambulance would then qualify only for the minimum county
funding of $6,000 for an ambulance company.
The dispute over billing is the most
recent in a series of conflicts that have thrust the company
into the limelight over recent months.
Emmitsburg Ambulance missed 10 of 11
calls during the July 20-21 period, causing a backlash among
neighboring fire-rescue companies, who said it was not the
first time they had provided service to cover for the
In August, the FCVFRA formed an
independent committee to evaluate the company's operations and
The following month, the president of
Emmitsburg Ambulance was ousted by the company, and the chief
Emmitsburg Ambulance Public
Information Officer Ann M. Messner said Wednesday that it is
possible that billing revenue could be used to pay ambulance
personnel at some future point.
"Although at this time there is
no apparent need for career personnel," Messner said,
"it is a possibility in the future, due to increased call
volume caused by development in the area." Part of the
funds generated from billing would be set aside for paid
personnel if necessary, she said.
Emmitsburg Ambulance is the only
remaining all-volunteer ambulance company in Frederick County.
Davis, who said he was speaking as an
Emmitsburg resident and not representing Vigilant Hose, told
King, "I think this whole situation is nothing but a slap
in the face to this community." Calling it "bad
business," he said the decision was widening the
alienation that volunteer fire-rescue personnel are feeling
from the BOCC and the rest of the fire-rescue community.
"We have to stay together,"
"The direction you all are
taking, you are sure not making any friends…" he said.
"f you want to survive here in Emmitsburg, you need the
support of the community."