Voters Reject Proposed Benton County Ambulance Fee

ambulance red

A proposed fee to fund ambulances serving rural areas of Benton County failed in a public vote Tuesday night.

Election results show voters rejected the measure 2,346 votes (67 percent) to 1,134 (33 percent), according to the Benton County Election Commission.

More than 900 early votes were cast before Tuesday, with 578 people voting against the measure and 337 voting for it, according to the Benton County Election Commission.

Polls closed for Election Day at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, while early voting ended Monday.

Some emergency crews had warned they could have to cut off some rural areas if the proposed ambulance fee did not pass.

There are seven service providers that provide ambulance services to the unincorporated parts of Benton County. Arkansas state laws say cities can provide services outside of their city limits if there is a contract in place for them to be reimbursed. Over the past three years, the county has paid some money to the cities, but city officials say it’s just not enough to keep the rural service going.

Benton County Judge Bob Clinard said the cost for rural ambulance services in Benton County could reach $1.2 million by 2016. Clinard said to reimburse city providers for the availability of ambulance services, households in unincorporated areas will have to pay an annual $85 fee. Clinard said the fee is based on the estimate for 2016.

About 19,500 unincorporated households were eligible to vote in the election.

Emergency crews in Siloam Springs, one of the seven providers in the county, said before the vote that they were prepared to cease EMS services to unincorporated areas, according to the city.

The Board of Directors passed a resolution to discontinue service to unincorporated parts of Benton County if the reimbursement is not met.

If the vote had passed, Clinard said the annual fee would have gone into effect this year.

23 comments

  • intheknow

    Wow, people in Benton County want ambulance service for nothing. Sounds like Washington County. The only problem is that Benton County relies on the cities to provide the service who don’t actually have a legal responsibility to do so where Washington County relies on it’s whipping boy Central EMS to provide service for next to nothing. All of you in Washington County take notice, you’re getting a great deal and should probably put more money in the system; those of you in Benton County need to smarten up and pay for the service you get. Trust me, it’s not cheap regardless of what county you’re in. The only difference is what county you’re in. If Benton County pays they will get much better service than what Washington County currently gets.

  • Joe Delaney

    If the county has the money for a $50 million dollar courthouse it has the money to cover a basic service. County residents already pay enough. Lord knows the county isn’t spending the money on snow removal services.

  • Joe Delaney

    And I can’t wait until a sheriff tries to pull me over for racing my pregnant wife to the hospital at 900 mph. If Clinger and the Judges want to keep their jobs they better not allow the county to lose coverage.

    • Glenn

      At 900 miles an hour I doubt seriously if a cop will be able to catch you much less pull you over. And, what’s wrong with paying $85/yr. for ambulance service?

      • Duke

        I don’t think people realize that $85 is comes out to less than $8 a month. I wonder if they think the residents in town don’t have to pay same bill. Hmmm. So they want a service but don’t want to pay for it and possibly take it away from the people who do pay for it. Sounds like government at its finest there. Take away from the people who pay to give it away to those who don’t.

  • Joe Delaney

    Because the county has the money to pay for this basic service but they’d rather spend the money on moving the courthouse which nobody wants. I wonder if an ambulance will show up if one of the city mayor’s has a bad accident in the county.

  • Daryl Reed

    City of Centerton government pays for ambulance service to the city of Bentonville which charges about $400.00 per run if a patient needs transported to the hospital. These are ambulance service fees. Then our own insurance company gets billed also which is separate from the ambulance service fee. I would rather pay $85.00 per year on my taxes than for the city to use it’s general fund for these services.

  • loobie1805

    The cost for city residents comes out of sales tax. The rural residents shop in the city so pay the same sales tax and then have to pay another $85 on top. The response time to get an ambulance.in the city is within a few minutes whereas in the rural areas it can be up to an hour and in the bad weather the ambulances wont travel into a lot of the rural areas, so why should rural residents pay extra for a lesser level of service?

    I am personally sad it has not passed, but i can also see why residents feel they are not being treated fairly.

    • The Fox

      Actually, city residents pay for Ambulance service from utilities billing, not from sales taxes or this would be a moot point. The problem is, the county residents have been receiving this service, on the backs of those who pay city utilities.

  • Diane

    This>>>>>>>>>>>”The cost for city residents comes out of sales tax. The rural residents shop in the city so pay the same sales tax and then have to pay another $85 on top. The response time to get an ambulance.in the city is within a few minutes whereas in the rural areas it can be up to an hour and in the bad weather the ambulances wont travel into a lot of the rural areas, so why should rural residents pay extra for a lesser level of service?”

    Oh and one more thing, there might be a few out of us out here who cannot afford to pay that. Did that cross anyone’s mind?

  • NW Benton County Resident

    I see city residents saying we rural folks are getting a service we don’t pay for….well, prove it. No where did I see a breakdown by city what it costs to serve rural areas. What percentage of EMS calls come from rural areas etc. I have also not seen any figures as to how much they charge insurance providers for their service compared to cost. And I’d also bet that when someone dies 200ft out of the service area of a city and wins the subsequent lawsuit for millions, that city may have wished they’d acted a little less greedy.

    Rural residents may even decide to spend they’re money in one of the cities that didn’t threaten us with pulling EMS service.

  • The Fox

    City residents, in Siloam Springs any way, pay $7 monthly on their utility payments. I’m positive the other cities involved have the same system in place. Its not broken down on their bill, because almost all city departments get their budget from utilities, there just isn’t room to break it down on a piece of paper, and have the handy tear off payment coupon. County and sales taxes help some, but are earmarked for mainly streets and schools. Unincorporated residents of the counties, that do not pay to a municipally owned utility system, do not pay that fee for the security of having ambulance coverage. It is actually against the law, equalized taxation, for a municipally owned service, to provide that service to someone outside of the incorporated portions of the city, unless, there is a compensation agreement, between the county, and municipality to do so.

  • pilot man

    Fox is full of smoke Schools Rural residents pay huge to the schools via Property tax citys contribute very little to schools. Not all cities have their own electrical depts etc Fox is simply misinformed as usual

  • The Fox

    Wow, its my first conversation on here, and I am “misinformed as usual”. Hate to tell you pilot, but what I have posted isn’t anything that isn’t easily verified. Just read the articles and interviews posted. I pay just as much in property taxes as you do, plus a fee monthly for the security of ambulance coverage. Being that this effects me directly, I have taken the time to become quite educated on the matter. No, I don’t live in the rural areas of the community. I am a Paramedic, I have friends that live outside the city. I am sorry that you think I am full of smoke, take time to read all the info, like I did, before you make accusations of being “full of smoke”. I assure you, everything I posted, is spot on.

  • pilot man

    Fox something for U to think about. U pay 84.00 yr County was asking 85.00 That 1 dollar gives me first right to service. if only 1 ambulance available and we call at same time or after U call before ambulance arrives at your house City must drop your call and go rural or u will face litigation so deep the AR municiple league would drop your policy!

  • pilot man

    my point citys do not fund the schools as u claim generally rural folks pay more in property taxes also we have an private ambulance service in SS. Under what authority does the county or city have in telling us we have to use their service? How does this effect u directly? Do u really think Siloam would spend the money on more ambulances or on U. U folks unionized its not rural folks job to pay your pension plans .

  • The Fox

    I didn’t say that cities fund schools. What I said was county and sales taxes do. I work for both ambulance services in Siloam, the city owned, and the privately owned. The privately owned service, you are looking at a 20-30 minute response time, at the very minimum. We don’t stay down there, we are on call, at home. We go to the station to pick up an ambulance after we get the call. That service does inter-facility transfers and non emergency nursing home runs, and then is used as a back up for the city if the 4 ambulances the city owns are already out. True, we have a local affiliation, IAFF local 2855, but research exactly what an affiliation with a local gets you in a right to work state with no collective bargaining. No one is asking you, or any one else outside the city, to pay my pension. The citizens of Siloam and I do that.

  • pilot man

    Reaching i think not. Rural residents paying more for same service will get u first call or one hell of a lawsuit

  • Duke

    Pilot I think you don’t understand how ems works. They don’t drop calls to go take calls because they pay more or less taxes. The short of it is this. . You don’t want to pay for the security of having an ambulance then you should not get one. The city residence should not suffer in response time bc the ambulance is an hour away in the county for some who is not paying for the service they are. This is great for you though bc now you will not have to pay that $85 but I promise you $85 is not that much when you are having a heart attack or stroke and time is the determining factor of the quality of the rest of your life. When you get your own service and that ambulance is out helping someone else and you have to wait till the take that patient to the hospital then respond for your emergency lets see if you’re singing a different song. And no law suite is brought up because you voted not to have this service you are suing respond.

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