Harrison County

Update: Hewes desires competition for ambulance service

Gulfport Mayor Billy Hewes Jr.
Gulfport Mayor Billy Hewes Jr. ttisbell@sunherald.com

Gulfport Trouble is brewing between the Harrison County Board of Supervisors and the county's largest city.

Gulfport Mayor Billy Hewes sent the board letter giving the county notice that it doesn't intend to renew the agreement between the city and county for ambulance service unless the county opens it up to competition.

"While the city would prefer to continue as a party to the aforementioned Interlocal Cooperation Agreement, we believe it is in the best interest of the City of Gulfport not to do so in light of the fact that Requests for Proposals/Qualifications have not been pursued by the county prior the December 31, 2016, renewal date," Hewes wrote.

The city said it would withdraw the notice if the county makes RFPs/RFQs by Aug. 15.

"This is not anything new," said Hewes after the letter was read at Monday's Board of Supervisor's meeting. "Last year at this time, we had approached the supervisors about doing this exact thing, putting out for request for proposals.”

He said supervisors asked Gulfport to wait until after January, when new supervisors were seated.

“It is as much a transparency issue as an accountability issue to make sure we’re getting best services we can for our taxes,” he said. “It's not a Gulfport issue. It just allows competition."

He said it has been four or five years since the current contract was signed and it has an automatic renewal that would kick in should the county not open the ambulance service up to proposals from other companies.

Board President Beverly Martin said the board agreed to look at all contracts, including the one with AMR for ambulance services. Those reviews are ongoing.

"We need to do our due diligence," she said.

The AMR contract costs Gulfport nothing, she said. She recommended the board take no action "on something hastily put together."

Supervisor Connie Rockco wondered what is becoming of the One Coast concept championed by Hewes.

"I do think it is untimely and somewhat intimidating," she said. "We're One Coast, right?"

Hewes said there is no conflict between the city and county.

"It's just good business," he said.

But supervisors clearly though there was more to it. A couple of times Biloxi had business before the board Monday and each time Rockco and Martin, both from Biloxi, noted that that city was being a good partner.