The proposed fee to fund ambulance service to rural parts of Benton county failed in a public vote Tuesday night, leaving the prospects for service to those areas uncertain.
Moving forward, Benton County officials will meet at the Benton County administration building Thursday night to discuss what can or cannot be done, funding wise, to keep crews responding to rural ambulance calls.
“There are so many people that can die from not having the service,” rural county resident Summer Kennedy said. “That is terrible. We need more funding for it because not having a car of my own, if something were to happen to my kid, I wouldn’t know what to do.”
Voters on Tuesday night turned down a proposed $85 ambulance fee 67 percent to 33 percent. Some area emergency crews had warned they might stop responding to rural areas if the vote failed.
Officials said it takes a lot of money for the existence of cities’ emergency medical services. One ambulance with all of the needed equipment is $300,000.
“As we all now, we know it was defeated by two-thirds majority, and while we preferred it would pass, it doesn’t change the fact that the county has got to find a permanent funding mechanism,” Siloam Springs Fire Chief Greg Neely said.
Benton County EMS covers more than 180 square miles.
The public is welcome to Thursday night’s meeting, which starts at 6p.m., in the Benton County administration building in Bentonville.
Rural areas are still being serviced for the time being, but some emergency crews are warning that if a deal isn’t in place soon, they will have to stop responding to those calls.
The failed fee proposal would have charged each rural household $85 per year to keep EMS services running to those areas.