BELTON — The city secured a franchise to allow a nonemergency ambulance service to operate in Belton as a standby emergency service.

The provider, Capital EMS, is based in Lampasas and has been providing nonemergency services to Belton for about 12 years. The services include transporting people to nursing homes, doctor’s appointments or hospitals in situations when the patient does not need to be rushed to the destination.

However, an ordinance requires the city to grant a franchise for a nonemergency service to operate within city limits. Typically, a nonemergency provider would be charged a 5 percent franchise fee, about $600 per call, which would go in the city’s coffers as revenue. The city agreed to waive the franchise fee for an alternative agreement: Capital EMS will, in addition to providing nonemergency ambulance services, also agree to offer standby emergency services to support the Belton EMS for one year.

“It seems like an opportunity to expand our services,” Belton City Manager Sam Listi said at the July 8 council meeting. The city can try the agreement for a year then decide whether to maintain or change it after the year’s end, he said.

Fire Chief Francisco Corona described the franchise agreement as a “benefit” for the city’s residents.

Belton emergency responders typically transport victims to hospitals in Temple or Harker Heights.

The challenge for Belton, he said, is that it takes time to deliver a patient to a medical facility, return to the city, resupply the ambulance and place it back in service.

In addition, ambulances are needed for certain hard-to-service rural areas.

“Belton only has two ambulances, which work in conjunction with fire and rescue,” Corona said. “When I don’t have ambulances available, (Capital EMS) can help me. It’s an awesome system,” he said.

Because Capital EMS is nearby, the city also would not have to wait for additional ambulances from a city further away, such as Temple.

“There will not be a delay,” he said. “We will not have to wait longer for an ambulance.”

Capital EMS will most likely service west Belton.

Often, when ambulances are busy, fire engines can be dispatched in their place. With the new franchise agreement, more ambulances will be available, he said.

Corona noted that the Capital EMS workers and ambulances, even though they are from a private company, are certified and meet requirements mandated by state law.

“They’ve got good equipment and a good staff. It makes a lot of sense,” he said about the decision to use the company for emergencies.

Other area cities, including Temple, use nonemergency services provided by as Scott & White or Acadian. Many cities charge a franchise fee.

According to city documents, in 2012, Capital EMS provided about 200 nonemergency services to Belton. The City Council will decide next year whether to re-negotiate the franchise agreement so that Capital EMS would pay a fee.

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