ECFR voters will decide on EMS levy

Money supports paramedic/ambulance services

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On the Nov. 4 General Election ballot, East County Fire and Rescue will be asking its voters to approve the renewal of a levy that supports emergency medical services.

For more than 30 years, the local area EMS system has been supported through a partnership between Camas, Washougal and East County Fire and Rescue, with Camas being the lead agency. Through three separate voter approved tax levies, all three entities currently contribute to the system.

ECFR’s six-year, 35 cent EMS levy expires at the end of 2014. This year, it brought in approximately $393,000. This money is funneled through ECFR directly to Camas.

Funding supports ambulance services, purchase and maintenance of ambulances, equipment and supplies, hiring and training of firefighter/paramedics and IV technicians and administrative support personnel and training programs. It also provides for the EMT training and recertification of the volunteer programs in Washougal and ECFR.

ECFR will be asking voters to continue the 35 cent per $1,000 rate. It will require a 50 percent simple majority “yes” vote to pass.

“This is just renewing the exact levy that has been in place for the last six years,” said ECFR Chief Scott Koehler. “We’re staying the status quo. It will cost no more than it did last year.”

ECFR district voters last approved the levy as part of the August 2008 primary election. It received 64.8 percent support.

The levy costs the owner of property valued at $200,000 approximately $70 per year, and property valued at $300,000 approximately $105 per year.

Koehler said even with the strong support six years ago, it’s difficult to predict election outcomes.

“Consumer confidence is still lukewarm; the economy is not all that it could be,” he said. “I just hope that folks just consider this in the context of the fact that it’s not a new tax and it provides paramedic coverage 24-7-365, at a level that we would not see if we contracted AMR.”

Koehler said that with the EMS levy support, the CWFD provides four ambulances that respond to calls in its service area. If that EMS funding was not approved, and American Medical Response was contracted to serve the ECFR district, coverage levels would likely be significantly reduced.

“If AMR were to ever take over by default, I would be surprised to see if we ever had more than one ambulance in the area, and it would probably sit on 192nd, between our community and Vancouver,” he said.

The ECFR district includes the 10,000 people who live within the 60 square miles of unincorporated area that is north and east of the cities of Camas and Washougal.

Ballots will be available the week of Oct. 15. Main-in ballots must be postmarked by Nov. 4.