Beaverhead EMS ballot proposal moved to next year

Wednesday, February 12, 2020
Beaverhead EMS ballot proposal moved to next year

On hold

Beaverhead Emergency Medical Services’ full-time department question will not appear until next year’s May ballot, officials say. Casey S. Elliott photo

Voters will not get to decide on funding a new full-time EMS service until next year, officials say.

Beaverhead Emergency Medical Services (EMS) officials are putting together a proposal to move to a fulltime EMS service, which would cover the city of Dillon, Fire District #2 and a couple of outlying areas in the county. The group first broached the idea in May 2019 to the Beaverhead County Commissioners, and have since then attempted to nail down costs, coverage area, number of employees and more.

Beaverhead EMS representative Jean Bergeson presented draft documents for the proposed district to the Dillon City Council’s Fire and Order Committee in December. The proposal estimated $650,000 annual budget for the service, covering eight full-time employees, a part-manager and a backup crew. Roughly half of the income would come through a five-year tax levy in the district, with the remainder coming from insurance billing for runs. The issue was intended to go before voters this May.

Committee members asked organizers to consider different fees for larger buildings (such as apartment complexes) or the University of Montana Western, which may have more runs than single-family homes. They also suggested seeking additional funding through Barrett Hospital.

Bergeson wrote city and county officials in an email the service would have to postpone putting the question to voters until May 2021, as getting answers to those and other questions would take too long to finalize in time for this year’s election.

“The ambulance district work group did some further research and looked at alternative assessments options for the district,” she wrote in a Feb. 4 email to all parties. “So far we have found most other options for determining the tax assessments to be pretty cumbersome and appear to be difficult to assess and provide the necessary monitoring.”

Bergeson added the group wanted to further clarify voting requirements for establishing the district, and is working on outreach to find other funding sources.

Before the district can appear on a ballot, the proposal must go through a process with public hearings and a vote by the Beaverhead County Commissioners to put it there. And while the Dillon City Council does not technically need to offer a thumbs up on the issue, Beaverhead EMS officials would prefer to have its backing, Bergeson wrote.

“We all feel it would be a strong step in the right direction for the citizens of Dillon to know the governing board of the city feels comfortable with supporting the proposal for 24/7 emergency coverage,” she wrote in the email.