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Ambulance tax tabled; study requested

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By Bryan Marshall

The second reading of a proposed new taxing district that would help create funding for more ambulance service throughout the county was tabled Dec. 5 as magistrates plan to gather more information.

Initially, a motion was made to table the second reading until the Jan. 3 meeting.

However, that motion was rescinded after a discussion that included comments from several audience members.

The motion was ultimately made and approved to table the second reading indefinitely.

The fiscal court will have to pass a motion at a future meeting to set a date for a second reading before it can be voted on again.

“I don’t want you to think we’re just passing stuff,” said Magistrate Brian Linder. “We’re listening to the community. We’re talking to people in the community, government leaders, people in other counties. That’s why we’re tabling it. We’re not comfortable, at least I’m not, tonight, to pass it as is. We’re asking the questions and thinking it through to make sure we do it right the first time as opposed to going through and this time next year, going, ‘well, maybe we didn’t do it right.’”

The first reading of the ordinance was approved during the Nov. 7 regular meeting.

If passed, each magistrate would choose a member within their district to be part of a newly created ambulance taxing district board.

The board would have the responsibility to set the rate for the taxing district, but the ordinance states that the initial rate would be set at 1.5 cents per $100 assessed property or about $15 for a home valued at $100,000.

An ambulance service tax would not go into effect until next year’s tax bills, which are collected beginning in October.

Currently, ambulance service is provided through the Dry Ridge Fire Department, which has three ambulances, and Rural Metro with one ambulance.

Although the majority of the ambulance runs made by DRFD are outside city limits, Dry Ridge taxpayers are the only ones paying for the service.

If a taxing district is formed, the ambulance provider for the county would be put out for bid.

Several community members voiced their opinion that the fiscal needed to have a feasibility study completed before any action is taken.

“I don’t see how you could have voted for this the first time without any data,” said Grant County resident Dave Rose.

“I think you need to table this until you can come up with a study as to what should be done and how much money it takes to do it,” he said.

Ron Walter, market manager for Rural Metro, also agrees a study should be done.

“This a complex question that you’re asking here,” he said. “There’s a lot of give and takes that need to be looked at.”

If things get off on the wrong foot, Dry Ridge Assistant Fire Chief Jeff Nantz said the county will be out more money in the long run.

Seeing what is needed is a step in the right direction, said Nantz.

“If our goal is, as Magistrate (Richard) Austin said in the last meeting, is an ambulance in every fire station in those communities, $250,000 will not even cover a $10 an hour employee,” he said. “If someone’s trying to make you believe that it will, be very careful or you could find yourself a year from now looking at bigger problems than you have right now.”

Williamstown Fire Chief Les Whalen said the fire departments have been asking unsuccessfully for a comprehensive feasibility study for the past couple years.

“We’re pretty much got shot down on that because we all know studies can say what they want to,” he said. “They can be manipulated the way you want to hear them. But, we have to a study or some kind of data figure to go on.”

Magistrate Bobby Young said the fiscal court has not and will not take its vote lightly.

“I don’t want to be taxed anymore than I am,” he said. “But, we’ve got to look at how to approach that tax.”