Voters to decide on ambulance district

Casey S. Elliott
Wednesday, April 7, 2021

The proposed new Beaverhead Ambulance District is outlined in yellow, following existing Fire District #2 boundaries with a couple of additions. The proposed district would not take over the coverage areas of Lima, Grasshopper, Wisdom or Wise River ambulance services. Courtesy image

Beaverhead Emergency Medical Services’ request to voters to establish an ambulance district for a full-time department will soon head to voters.

Mail ballots for the establishment of the district and the selection of the board managing it will be sent out April 16. The election is May 4.

Beaverhead EMS is a nonprofit organization established in the 1950s, the oldest continuously-operating service in Montana. Started as an all-volunteer force, members hope to expand and provide 24-hour, seven day-a-week service to a larger portion of residents in Beaverhead County, representative Jean Bergeson said.

The new ambulance district’s boundaries would match existing Fire District #2 boundaries, and include the city of Dillon and some outlying areas. The new district will not take over the coverage areas of Lima, Grasshopper, Wisdom or Wise River ambulance services, which will continue to operate as they have previously.

BEMS has expanded its existing offerings by providing some full-time positions to cover shifts, but increasing numbers of runs and strains put on the volunteers brought it to seek the creation of the district and additional funding for its operation. Property owners (residences, commercial enterprises and mobile homes within the district) would be charged $35 a year for the new district, which would supplement BEMS’ existing funding to hire two- to three full-time staff members, supplementing the existing full-time staff and volunteers. The tax dollars would only be used for staff.

A five-person elected board would ensure tax dollars raised for staffing the ambulance district are used as intended. That board is separate from BEMS’ own nonprofit board of directors.

Bergeson noted the city of Dillon and Barrett Hospital and Healthcare support the establishment of the district. Barrett Hospital’s board agreed to cease collection of the mill levy that supports the hospital to reduce the tax burden on residents, she said. The district, if approved, would be in effect for five years, and have to be renewed by voters at that time or it would cease to exist.

For more information, call 406-683-2833 and leave a message.