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Fees for Rowan County services increase July 1

By Josh Bergeron

josh.bergeron@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — In a few weeks, the cost of an ambulance ride is going up for people with medical problems in Rowan County.

As part of a number of fee increases, Rowan County Emergency Medical Services will charge patients $10 per mile starting July 1 instead of the current $7.50 per mile. Costs will also increase from $140 to $200 for instances where county paramedics treat patients without transporting the person to the hospital. Other fee increases include: county property rezonings, site plan reviews, building inspections fees and prices for activities at Dan Nicholas Park.

County departments included in the fee increases — Emergency Medical Services, Planning and Development, Parks and Building Inspections — received approval for the change when Rowan County Commissioners approved a budget last week. Fee increases start on July 1 because that’s the first day of the 2016-2017 fiscal year.

When asked about the increases, County Manager Aaron Church said fees were brought up to the market average. Church said Dan Nicholas Park is unique. There isn’t anything to compare Dan Nicholas Park to, he said. As a result, he said staff decided on increases that are based on the price Rowan County pays.

“They were incremental, small increases to keep up with the cost of providing services,” Church said.

Now, Rowan charges one rate for services at Dan Nicholas Park. For residents of Rowan County, large shelters will cost $35 for a half day and $70 for a full day. Previously, large shelters were priced at $30 for a half day and $60 for a full day.

County Commissioners Vice Chairman Jim Greene said park fees haven’t increased in a number of years.

“People are probably looking at a few dollar increase in their fees,” Greene said. “It’s something that’s not a huge increase … I feel confident that the services and cost of services we are providing are in line with other counties.”

Although the price of a number of medical services will go up, EMS Division Chief Lennie Cooper clarified that patients wouldn’t necessarily pay more if they use Medicaid, Medicare or private insurance. Cooper said the county used recommendations from a company it uses for billing to determine the rates. The recommendations are based on what Rowan County will be paid for its medical services by private insurance groups, Medicaid and Medicare.

Greene and Commissioners Chairman Greg Edds — both run insurance businesses — said a person’s medical costs will vary based on their specific plan.

“It is fair to say that it will cost more, but who that cost is passed along to will be determined by each individual patient’s insurance plans,” Edds said.

People who pay medical costs directly — those without private insurance, Medicaid, or Medicare — will pay more per mile.

Edds said the fee increases for Emergency Medical Services haven’t increased in a number of years and were “pretty far below market.”

“We just wanted to bring things up to the average market rate,” he said.

To be exact, fees charged by Emergency Medical Services haven’t increased in seven years. Fees for the Building Inspections Department haven’t increased in three years. Parks and Recreation fees haven’t been adjusted in eight years. With the exception of cell tower fees, the Rowan County Planning Department hasn’t adjusted its rates since 1998.

Church said he told department directors at the beginning of the budget process to “take a hard look at their fees” and recommend whether they should be adjusted up or down based on the cost of doing business.

Contact reporter Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4246.

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