A proposed emergency medical services levy in rural Asotin County will appear on the Nov. 3 ballots of registered voters in Anatone, Cloverland and the southern portions of Snake River Road.
Rural property owners who live outside the EMS boundaries of Asotin County are being asked to support a levy to cover the costs of ambulance services provided by the city of Lewiston. The estimated cost for the six-year levy is about 15 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation.
County officials are conducting a virtual town hall meeting on the Asotin County Rural EMS District No. 2 at 6:30 p.m. Monday. The link can be found online at www.co.asotin.wa.us. Any questions about the new district can be sent to the county at email@example.com prior to the meeting.
At the online town hall session, Fire Chiefs Travis Myklebust, of Lewiston, and Noel Hardin, of Asotin County, will be on hand to answer questions and explain the need for the district, along with the Asotin County commissioners.
According to Myklebust, the Lewiston Fire Department responded to 53 EMS calls in the area not currently covered by the City of Asotin, Asotin County Fire District No. 1 or the city of Clarkston’s EMS levy districts, during the last fiscal year.
“The reason this EMS levy district is needed is to fund the cost of providing EMS in those areas,” Myklebust said. “Currently the county is paying for the EMS contract with the Lewiston Fire Department with general fund dollars and that means that many of those residents in their established EMS districts are actually paying for their EMS levy and a portion of the general fund monies that are helping pay for the unincorporated portion of Asotin County.”
The county is paying $6,000 a year to cover those expenses, Commissioner Chris Seubert said. The new district would ensure ambulances will still respond to medical emergencies on Rattlesnake Grade, the Snake River corridor and Cloverland areas.
“Right now, EMS services are not guaranteed in that district,” Seubert said. “With the passing of the levy, they would be.”
If the levy fails, it will be up to the county commissioners to decide if they are going to continue paying the contract amount using general fund monies. If they decide not to, they have 180 days to cancel the current agreement or let it expire on Sept. 30, 2021, the Lewiston fire chief said.
“If they decide to cancel or not renew on Sept. 30, 2021, I will have to take this in front of the city manager and council to determine if we will provide a service to this area for no funding,” Myklebust said. “My recommendation to the city manager and council will be that we should not provide a service to an area that is not paying for the service. This would not be fair to the citizens of Lewiston or our other contracted providers, and the voters in this area made a conscious decision to vote to not have funding for EMS.”
Hardin said the new EMS district would serve all residents who live south of the established boundaries of Asotin County Fire District No. 1.
Property owners in Hardin’s district currently pay about 48 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation for ambulance services. A permanent levy was approved by voters several years ago.
“We have built a great EMS tiered system with our partnership with Lewiston,” Hardin said. “When an ambulance gets called to that area outside of our district, we backfill our station with crews for the next call. There is a cost every time a wheel turns. If an ambulance crew needs more hands, either responders from Asotin County Fire District 1 or the city of Asotin station will respond, and then we need more personnel to backfill those stations. As the number of emergency calls increase in that area, so does the cost to provide that service.”
The city of Clarkston is served by its own ambulance service, which was established in 2010. On the ballots mailed to registered voters this week, Clarkston residents are being asked to fund an excess EMS levy that calls for about $1.60 per $1,000 of assessed valuation for property owners inside the city limits.
Following Monday night’s town hall session on the new rural EMS district, the Asotin County commissioners will conduct their regular weekly meeting. Topics of discussion include an update on the new Asotin County Jail.
Seubert said residents can listen to the meetings through the online connection, and a limited number can attend in person. The commissioners are following the state’s COVID-19 restrictions and can allow only 10 people inside the chambers in Asotin, he said.
A second town hall meeting on the rural EMS district is planned for 6:30 p.m. Oct. 29, using the same format.
For more information on how to participate, residents can call (509) 243-2060.
Sandaine may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or (208) 848-2264. Follow her on Twitter @newsfromkerri.