During their meeting Monday morning, the Wright County Board of Supervisors passed a resolution setting Tuesday, August 7th as the date for a special election to allow Wright County voters the opportunity to approve a special property tax levy for Emergency Medical Services operations in Wright County.
For the past decade EMS agencies across Iowa, including Wright County have been discussing the need for EMS System improvements. Ambulance services have seen declining volunteerism,
decreased reimbursements, increased operational costs and overall system losses. In August 2017 the Wright County Board of Supervisors declared EMS an Essential Service in Wright County and resolved to exercise the necessary power and functions appropriate to preserve the health, safety and welfare of Wright County residents and to provide for an effective and efficient EMS System that allows for quality medical care for persons living, working or traveling in Wright County.
The Board of Supervisors appointed an EMS System Advisory Council to provide guidance, research and direction on improving the EMS System in Wright County. Jim Lester, County Emergency Management Coordinator, was named chairperson of the Advisory Council and presented the group’s findings to the Board during Monday’s Public Hearing on EMS.
According to Lester, the ambulance services in Wright County, specifically Belmond, Clarion, and Eagle Grove are experiencing financial losses.
In 2016, the City of Dows notified surrounding services that they would no longer be providing ambulance service, mainly due to lack of qualified staffing. The problem is that there are not enough EMS volunteers in the area to maintain staffing, and that number is beginning to dwindle.
During his presentation, Lester reminded the Board that Iowa does not recognize EMS as an essential service despite numerous attempts to the contrary. The Advisory Council looked at many different options and with the assistance of County Attorney Eric Simonson, decided to pursue using Iowa Code 422D, which allows the Board of Supervisors to offer for voter approval a property tax levy to specifically fund EMS.
The tax money would be used to help fund in part, education and training.
“With the expected growth in Wright County, having well-trained and equipped ambulance services to respond to emergencies anywhere in the county is important,” explained Board
Chairman Karl Helgevold.