By: Jennifer Britt
The Parsons Advocate
The Tucker County Ambulance Authority presented residents in Davis, with information about the proposed EMS excess levy tax in hopes of gaining residents yes vote on the November ballot. The meeting was held at the Davis Volunteer Fire Department Hall and an estimated 15 residents and four EMS crew members were present.
Ambulance Authority member LeNora Howell was Emcee for the night and presented a slideshow of information containing answers to the most asked questions. The five most commonly asked questions pretained to volunteer staffing, EMS calls to tourist, ski resorts or national forest areas, residents worried about a high tax bill, the EMS asking fire departments for lift assistance, and collecting from those that did not pay the orginal EMS ordinance fee. The answers to these questions were provided by the Ambulance Authority.
Why is EMS not staffing the ambulances with volunteers? Times have changed. EMS is not just a transport function taking people to hospitals for care. Modern ambulances are extensions of emergency rooms that require equipment, training and certifications. These requirements are expensive and time consuming to acquire and maintain.
Craig (last name not given) at www.quora.com is a retired paramedic supervisor with a Bachelor of Sciences, Bachelor of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences and Master of Sciences degrees, who currently has 19 years of experience with an adjunct medical faculty said, “At one time there were far more than now. But times have changed. Years ago, it was considered sort of a civic duty in small towns to volunteer for the local fire department or EMS operation. It was a different world and families usually had one “breadwinner” and one spouse raising the children at home.
Times changed. It became necessary to have both spouses work to buy that house or even just to make it as a family. Things like volunteering large amounts of hours went out the window as people could not afford to devote that much time. It was much easier if you had a volunteer spirit to do five hours a week at the soup kitchen instead of the 10 to even as much as 30 a week for your local fire/EMS.
And education requirements increased dramatically. Years ago, the paramedic “textbook” was about 125 pages, and you were certified in a matter of a few months. The class I just finished teaching had two main texts at 700 pages each plus additional texts that add up to probably another 700. By the time you go through all the education from beginning EMT to paramedic you are looking at well over two years of school and many thousands of dollars.
No one can afford all that to volunteer and you must have the EXACT same licensing to volunteer that you do to be a professional making a living at it. If you are going to go through all that you may as well, do it for a living.
And finally, community standards and expectations changed. People want immediate response, and they want someone out the door in response immediately for an emergency. They do not want the guy who has to leave his fulltime job, drive to the station, and then be on the way.
My hat is off to those who can still volunteer. They are the best as far as I am concerned to still do it for the love of service to their community. Most of us old guys, myself included, started out that way. But those days are pretty much gone.”
How many calls are related to tourist injuries at ski resorts and national or state parks and forests? In the 2021-2022 fiscal year there were 19 calls that identified the reason for the call as a ski accident. That is 19 out of 1,281 total calls. There were also 179 calls identified by 911 as personal injury accidents spread out throughout the county, so even if you add both of those numbers together that is less than 200 calls of the 1,281 total calls or 15.5 percent.
On the map presented by the authority it listed 721 calls coming from the areas of Parsons, Hambleton, Hendricks, St. George and Leadmine and 522 calls placed in the areas of Thomas, Davis, Dry Fork, and Canaan Valley. There were 38 calls placed outside of the county.
A Tucker County resident’s house is worth $200,000 and if the levy passes that resident is worried, they are going to billed a lot of money. How much will they have to pay? According to the authority here is how to calculate the rate of which a resident will have to pay. The appraised value is $200,000. This is what the house could sell for on the market. The assessed value is $120,000 which is gotten by multiplying .06 times 200,000 (200,000 X .06 = 120,000). If the levy passes the tax would be $46.56 by calculating 120,000 divided by 100 and multiplying by .0388 (120,000/100=1,200 then 1,200 X .0388 = 46.56).
Why are the EMS crews calling the fire departments for lift assistance? The fire department has additional equipment and personnel to help the ambulance staff safely lift people with special needs and often times moving the patient over difficult terrain from the accident or incident location to the ambulance. Likewise, EMS is often dispatched to police and firefighting response scenes to provide medical backup in support of their primary services as well. EMS also uses the local fire departments to establish and secure helicopter life flights landing zones because they have the training, additional personnel, and special equipment to perform these tasks while EMS continues to perform lifesaving measures.
Why did EMS or the Ambulance Authority not collect from those who did not pay the EMS Ordinance fee? The collection of fees, levy, taxes is a responsibility of the Sheriff’s Office. The County Commission, Prosecutor, Magistrate, and Sheriff’s offices all have roles to play in the successful collection of unpaid EMS Ordinance fees. The Ambulance Authority has no statutory ability to collect county assessed fees.
The EMS levy if successfully passed, being a tax, will be processed and accounted for just like all other county property tax obligations. The process of collection of unpaid taxes is automatic and uniform throughout West Virginia under existing state law.
This process requires little if any intervention by politically elected officials. It is anticipated that the collection rate for the levy will be on par with class two and class three property tax collections county wide. Unpaid tax liens or sales will be an automatic state-controlled process.
This meeting can be viewed on the Tucker County Commission Facebook page. For further information on these topics and answers to any questions please attend the final EMS excess levy tax information meeting being held Tuesday, November 1 at 6:30 p.m. located on the third floor of the Old Courthouse in Parsons, West Virginia.
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