On May 27, unless you vote earlier at the County Courthouse in Hailey (which you can do any weekday up until May 26) or ask for an absentee ballot, you will have the opportunity to vote 'yes' to continue the current level of paramedic ambulance service in our county.
Your yes vote will ensure that there will continue to be enough functioning ambulances and enough skilled paramedics to respond to your E-911 medical calls, 24 hours a day/365 days a year. In a medical emergency, the last thing you want to hear the E-911 dispatcher say is, "I'm sorry, we can't send anyone to you at this time."
The Ambulance District is not seeking funds to expand its fleet of ambulances or to increase the number of trained personnel. The present level of service is quite good for a county of our size and population. No one is seeking to add more buildings or add more managers. The only thing voters are asked to do is help maintain the current level of service—and the only way to maintain the current level of service is by increasing the Ambulance District revenues by $350,000 a year. The cost to each taxpayer is only $3 per $100,000 of valuation, or $12 a year if your home is valued at $400,000.
The $350,000 shortfall is caused by the increasing costs for: replacements of ambulances, heart monitors, medicines and defibrillators; the higher cost of gasoline and oil and other supplies; the escalating cost of providing health insurance for ambulance personnel; and declining payments by Medicare, Medicaid and private insurance companies for ambulance fee reimbursements.
These recent changes in lower revenue payments and higher expenses can no longer be met by the current Ambulance District revenues. There are only two ways to meet the shortfall—obtain more revenue or reduce the number of ambulances and personnel available to respond to calls. No informed voter would deliberately vote to reduce ambulance service. After all, one day each of us or someone in our family or circle of friends is going to need an ambulance.
The Ambulance District has not asked for an increase in revenue since its inception in the mid-1980s. The district knows these are difficult economic times for everyone and it is with great reluctance that they are asking for your financial support at this time. If there were any other way to keep the present level of service without more funding, they would do it. However, there are no other alternatives, so the district needs our support to provide the level of ambulance service that our residents and visitors expect from a quality resort area. The cost to do this is very low.
We know you agree that the need must be met; we know that you support ambulance service in your heart. Now we need your actual vote on Proposition 1 to maintain paramedic-level ambulance service. If you'd like more information, please see our Web site, www.blainecountysafer.com, or call me at 726-9308.
Len Harlig, a former member of the Blaine County Commission, lives in Blaine County, near Ketchum.