Voters Reject Proposed Benton County Ambulance Fee

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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.