Oak Bluffs addresses tour buses, beach vendors and ambulance bills

— File photo by Mae Deary

Oak Bluffs selectmen at their Tuesday meeting continued to tighten the town’s financial controls. Selectmen addressed tour bus use of town property, overdue ambulance bills that exceeded $1.2 million last year, and mobile food vendors.

Selectmen approved tighter bid and leasing procedures for tour bus operators who want to use town property to park and solicit customers. They set the minimum bid at $2,500 for each of four available spaces, and will require a bid deposit of $1,000. Selectmen expect to award contracts for four bus parking spaces by May 15.

“That is to make sure we have only serious bidders, and that people follow all the guidelines,” town administrator Bob Whritenour said.

Mr. Whritenour said that in the past, tour operators operated on verbal permission from town officials, which led to complaints from competing tour operators and lax collection of payments.

“The current tour operator has been billed for 2011, billed repeatedly, and has still not paid,” Mr. Whritenour said.

Also Tuesday, the board approved new procedures for collecting overdue bills for ambulance service. Independent audits have repeatedly recommended a better process. At the end of the last fiscal year, auditors found the town was owed $1,284,000 for ambulance services.

Some of those overdue bills are from people who have no money and no insurance, according to Mr. Whritenour. Some of it is the difference between what the town charges, and what Medicare and Medicaid will pay.

“They establish specific rates that they will reimburse,” Mr. Whritenour said. “It looks like over $1 million, but the truth is there is a backlog of some of these amounts that need to be handled and written off.”

Bills more than 90 days old will be sent to a collection agency. Any abatements for financial hardship will come after a detailed application with specific criteria, and approved by both the ambulance chief and the town administrator.

Selectmen also approved new regulations for mobile food vendors at Big Bridge and Little Bridge along State Beach.

The new regulations give selectmen authority over what foods can be served, prohibit noise, smoke, or odors, and designate specific areas for the businesses to operate. Selectmen raised the permit fee from $500 to $1,000.