BVHD EMS brings ambulance district proposal forward

Full-time service would cost taxpayers
Casey S. Elliott
Wednesday, January 13, 2021

The creation of a full-time ambulance services district may come before voters this May.

Beaverhead Emergency Services officials hope to establish the Beaverhead Ambulance Services Special District, estimated to cost residents of the district $35 a year, and would be assessed on their property taxes.

The proposed service would have three full-time employees, supplemented by volunteers, Jean Bergeson of Beaverhead EMS told the Beaverhead County Commissioners Monday. The district follows Fire District #2’s boundaries; it will include the city of Dillon and a portion of Melrose.

EMS officials first brought the idea forward in May 2019; since then, officials ironed out estimated costs for the district and its boundaries. The original price tag intended a larger full-time work force. Bergeson said a review of staffing and current budgets helped scale down the proposal to its current form.

The potential new district would be in effect for five years, and voters would have to approve its renewal for the district to continue operation past that point.

Bergeson said previously Beaverhead EMS cannot continue as a volunteer service based on an increase in their annual runs. The issue was compounded with the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.

The EMS service is nearing 700 runs a year, which would be an increase of 100 runs each year for the last four years, she said. Beaverhead EMS, a nonprofit, recently hired a full-time EMS manager whose salary would be paid from that organization, not the newly-formed district.

Since the start of the pandemic, Beaverhead EMS has had three people on day shift, which she called “pretty good for a 21-person volunteer service.” Beaverhead EMS is the oldest in the state, having been in operation since at least 1954.

“We can’t keep doing this as a total volunteer service,” she added. “We think we need to proceed forward. If it passes we will be eternally grateful. If it doesn’t, we will have to figure out what to do with the service. The goal is to ensure Beaverhead County has an ambulance service – it can’t not have one.”

The commissioners must first approve a resolution of intention to form a special district before the question can be put before voters on the May ballot. The commission hopes to have a public hearing on the necessity for the district at 1:30 p.m. Jan. 25 at the courthouse; public comments on the proposal will be accepted by mail or email through 5 p.m. Jan. 29.