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Court crafts ambulance tax

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By Bryan Marshall

The Grant County Fiscal Court took the first step in establishing a new taxing district that would help create funding for more ambulance service throughout the county.

The first reading of the ordinance was approved during the Nov. 7 regular meeting with the second and final reading scheduled for 7 p.m. Dec. 5.

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 $1,000 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.

Grant County Judge-Executive Darrell Link said that the magistrates have suggested they would offset the new tax by decreasing the general fund tax next year.

“Maybe I oversimplified it in the beginning and said we’re going to pass this tax and it’s going to be the end all and going to fix everything, but it’s not,” Link said to a crowded fiscal court room. “We know this is just the very first step. That’s why I said, stay engaged in this process. When we appoint these three people, whoever they may be, attend their meetings, continue to ask questions and continue to push back. That’s the only way it’s going to get better.”

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 footing the bill to pay for the service, said Magistrate Brian Linder, who represents Dry Ridge.

The financial burden has been increasingly tough for the Dry Ridge City Council to carry by itself.

“I told them that if I was on their city council, I’m not sure I wouldn’t tell (DRFD) they can’t go outside of city limits,” Linder said. “The response back I got was, ‘That may be the situation next year.’ Now, the situation we’re left with is, if the Dry Ridge City Council says they can’t afford to provide ambulance care for the rest of the county and for the cities of Crittenden, Williamstown and Corinth, then we have one ambulance that’s going to service everybody in the county except for Dry Ridge. What we’re doing is attempting to fix that problem before we’re in a crisis situation with one ambulance that’s serving 65 to 70 percent of the population.”

“I think when most citizens when asked about this are going to want somebody to respond to their home or to a car wreck on the Interstate or rural roads,” Linder said. “We’re almost to a situation where we’re not going to have anybody.”

Dry Ridge Mayor Clay Crupper said the city has no choice, but to get financial help from the county.

“There comes a time when we just can’t afford to do it all,” he said. “We have to some help. That’s the bottom line. Dry Ridge has been supporting this thing now for several years and we just keep dipping into the till. We have to have the county help us some or we’re not going to make it.”

Robert Hall, who lives two miles north of Corinth, called the current ambulance service “unacceptable.”

“I’ve seen two fatal accidents down there and our ambulance service was pretty bad,” he said. “The first fatal accident we saw it was an hour and a half before an ambulance even got there. The second was 45 minutes. I don’t mind paying (the tax.) I think we need it. I don’t think the Dry Ridge citizens should have to pay for the whole county for the ambulance service. I’d like to see us get something in Williamstown and maybe in the Corinth area where we can have better ambulance service.”

Grant County resident Dave Rose said the court should be cautious before creating a new taxing district.

“I just believe that you need to look long and hard at this whole situation,” he said. “The real truth of the story is, do we have the money and do we really have the resources? Can you prove and document with data where you are going to cut the (response) time and have greater efficiency in responding to needs of an ambulance and have the crews to man them full-time?”

Another resident, Rob Ackerson, agreed that questions still needed to be answered.

“I know in Corinth at their little fire department they don’t have room for an ambulance,” he said. “I would assume that ambulance would cover Corinth and Cordova and probably parts of Mason. Have we looked at the expense that is going to be incurred for a place to house an ambulance?”

Jim Conrad, who is in favor of the tax, said that the growing pains that Grant County is going to see in the next few years are exactly where Boone County was 40 years ago.

As Boone grew leaps and bounds, Grant is also poised to expand, he said.

“We need this,” Conrad said about the tax. “We need this very badly. With the Ark park moving into the county and with the other associated commercial businesses, motels, restaurants and whatever else we’re going to have, there is only one way that our ambulance and fire service needs to go. It needs to grow exponentially.”

No one can predict when someone may have a heart attack or an accident may occur, said Linda Conrad, but the county needs to be prepared.

Already having an insufficient ambulance service, Conrad said it is important to look ahead now to fixing the problem.

“It would be terrible to be embarrassed if we had some big catastrophe and we couldn’t provide to take care of the people,” she said. “That would be a real blight on the county.”

Magistrate Dick Austin said the biggest question residents need to ask themselves is: what is it worth to know that if I do need an ambulance one is going to show up?

“I said from the very beginning that the only way I could support this is if we have full coverage across the county,” Austin said. “I serve a large rural area and I want someone who lives in my area in Williamstown to have just as good of service as someone who lives in Corinth or Cordova.”