COUNTIES ‑- AMBULANCES ‑- OPERATION OF UNDER CHAPTER 89, LAWS OF 1972, EX. SESS
Chapter 89, Laws of 1972, Ex. Sess., authorizes a third class county to establish an ambulance service for the entire county including that portion of the county lying within an incorporated city or town; such county ambulance service may compete with a municipal system owned and operated by a fourth class city but it may not compete with existing private ambulance system.
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August 30, 1973
Honorable L. Edward Brown
Grays Harbor County
Temple of Justice
Montesano, Washington 98563
Cite as: AGLO 1973 No. 89
This is written in response to your recent letter relative to the operation of a county ambulance system under the provisions of chapter 89, Laws of 1972, Ex. Sess. Your questions with respect to this legislation are as follows:
"(1) Does Chapter 89 authorize a third class county to establish, by appropriate legislation, an ambulance service system for the entire county including that portion of the county lying within an incorporated city or town (assuming of course that the system would not be competing with an existing private system)?
"(2) Does Chapter 89 authorize a county ambulance system to compete with a municipal system owned and operated by a fourth class city which presently serves city residents and the surrounding rural area?"
We answer both of these questions in the affirmative.
Chapter 89, Laws of 1972, Ex. Sess. (RCW 36.01.100), consists of but a single section which reads, in full, as follows:
"The legislative authority of any county may by appropriate legislation provide for the establishment of a system of ambulance service for the entire county or for portions thereof, and award contracts for ambulance service: Provided, That such legislation may not provide for the establishment of any system which would compete with any existing private system."
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Insofar as your first question is concerned, it seems abundantly clear from the express language of this statute that a board of county commissioners acting thereunder may provide for the establishment of a county ambulance system to serve either the entire county or any portions thereof ‑ and, most certaintly, the phrase "entire county" would encompass the areas occupied by any incorporated cities or towns located therein.
As for question (2), the key word in the proviso appearing at the end of the above quoted statute is "private." The authority of a board of county commissioners to operate its own ambulance system in competition with some other existing ambulance system is only restricted to the extent that the existing system is a private one rather than a publicly owned ambulance system which is being operated by some other municipal corporation.
It is hoped that the foregoing will be of some assistance to you.
Very truly yours,
PHILIP H. AUSTIN
Deputy Attorney General