What’s next for EMS?
After a contentious ballot campaign was followed by a first-step meeting with the county, what’s the next step in the ongoing saga to fund emergency medical services in Moffat County?
Last month, the Moffat County commissioners and various stakeholders surrounding emergency services in Moffat County met to discuss the next steps as to how to conduct and sustain EMS in the county. At that meeting, it was decided among the group that nine representatives of the county would be brought together to form a task force.
As Moffat County heads toward Jan. 3 — the goal date to have the taskforce assembled — the question is: how is that going to work?
Though still in the early stages, assembling that task force is going to take a conscious effort to make sure all of the county is represented, commissioner Melody Villard said. Citizens who opposed a recent ballot measure — 6A and 6B — originally organized the meeting with the commissioners in November where the task force was proposed, and one of that group’s main concerns with those ballot measures was how exactly the measures came to be organized.
Their criticism, they said, was that all parts of the county were not represented in that solution.
“I think (the commissioners) want a broad perspective or a broad group of people on the task force,” Villard said by phone on Thursday. “I don’t think we’ll do an application process for those positions, but people from those various groups at that meeting can submit interest to us. When (the Citizens Opposed group) came to us, I think they were just making sure that all of the voices were heard.”
The county commissioners are often the ones who appoint members of various boards in the community, such as the hospital board, and this process would most likely be similar. In addition to groups like Memorial Regional Health and EMS services in the county, Villard said that some more remote parts of the county — such as the north end of Moffat County or the west side, etc. — will be represented, as well.
Community members can communicate and attend meetings with the task force without actually being on the taskforce in order to have their voices heard as well. The exact number of task force members was decided at the Nov. 11 meeting in order to include diverse backgrounds while also not having too many members and creating the potential of the group not being able to come to a consensus. It will be the job of taskforce members to make sure that those whom they are representing have their specific concerns brought up at future meetings.
Villard also said it’s possible that other county groups could provide input as to what solutions could benefit EMS and other services in the county, such as fire services, in case it may be beneficial to combine certain groups with similar goals. Though nothing is official and many conversations have to happen before anything is decided, Villard said she and the other commissioners want to make sure that all possibilities are explored and that the taskforce has a diverse membership.
Earlier this year, 6A and 6B were voted down by Moffat County voters. In those measures, a five-member board would have been created to oversee emergency medical services in the county, and a taxing district would have been created that would have funded EMS across Moffat County by raising the property tax mill by 2.5 mills ($35 per year on a $200,000 actual-value home).
Right now, there are several separate entities that provide emergency services in the county — MRH has its own ambulance service, as well as Maybell and others — but this measure would have brought all of them under one umbrella EMS group while also alleviating the pressure of a money-losing drain on the hospital, which has said it cannot sustain the $600,000 loss EMS inflicts on its books in the long term.
Board members for that taxing district would have been made up of three people from Craig, one from Maybell and one from Dinosaur — though technically, anyone from across the county could have run for a seat on the board. There were no districts pre-set like there would be with the new county EMS taskforce.
But, with the measures soundly defeated, the existing ambulance services reverted to their current providers, leaving many with the concern that the largest — that of MRH — could be diminished or even cut by the hospital in an effort to salvage its budget.
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