Bismarck-area voters OK ambulance service
The Bismarck Area Fire Protection District will soon handle all emergency medical calls within its boundaries.
Residents on Tuesday voted 368-283 to allow the fire district to establish a new, tax-based ambulance service.
"It's a gigantic step for the community in terms of being able to provide better care," said Jenny Merrell, an EMT with and board treasurer of the Bismarck Community Ambulance Service, which currently handles the calls.
"The fire department has 13 EMTs. We had four. Obviously, that's going to provide a bigger pool of volunteers to respond faster to calls."
The fire district includes Bismarck, Henning, Alvin and the Lake Boulevard neighborhood north of Danville. Its current property tax rate is about 33 cents per $100 of assessed valuation for fire protection, meaning that the owner of a $100,000 home pays roughly $30 a year for fire protection.
Now officials will be able to levy a separate tax not to exceed 30 cents per $100 of assessed valuation to provide ambulance service. But Eric Johnson, a fire captain and EMS coordinator, said they don't plan to levy for the maximum amount.
He estimates the new tax will cost the owner of a $100,000 home an extra $10 to $15 a year. He said that's quite a savings considering most ambulance calls run around $700.
The revenue will be put toward start-up costs, estimated at $150,000 to $200,000. Johnson said plans call for purchasing the Bismarck Community Ambulance's vehicle and running calls from the fire station.
"This just goes to show that the community supports the fire district and what we're trying to do," he said.
No park district for Oakwood. Voters in the Oakwood school district soundly rejected a tax to create the Lincoln Trail Park District by a 1,037-207 vote.
"We were very optimistic that this thing was going to pass because we felt it was a really good thing for our communities and would help us move forward," said Clay Woodard, one of the organizers.
Organizers proposed establishing the district to improve the quality of life for residents in Oakwood, Fithian, Muncie, Newtown and rural Danville; attract and keep families and individuals; and even attract new business development.
If approved, commissioners could have considered levying a tax rate between 17 1/2 and 20 cents per $100 of assessed valuation at the maximum.
Organizers said the district would have offered recreational, cultural and social activities for residents of all ages.
Their long-term goal included building a recreational center and community room.
But that's something voters said they're not willing to pay for now, and Woodard said he understands.
"The price of gas keeps going up. Education keeps going up. There are just a lot of different things that take priority. And some things have to take a back seat to putting groceries on the table," he said.
Woodard wasn't sure whether organizers would try to put the question back on the ballot again sometime. That's something they'll have to discuss.