Craig Press Editorial Board: It’s far from perfect, but Moffat County can’t afford to vote no on the Health Services District
The Craig Press Editorial Board is endorsing ballot measures 6A and 6B.
Let’s get that out of the way. We believe, above all else, that this county — Craig, Maybell, Dinosaur, all — absolutely must have a sustainable, reliable, high-quality ambulance service, and we are confident the Health Services District will deliver that.
We can’t see it another way. The controversies surrounding these measures are intensely fraught and complex, but the simple truth is this: We can’t let this opportunity to lock in this absolutely necessary feature of a successful, healthy, vital community get away from us.
That said, we have thoughts.
In its absolute essential impact, these measures institute a small property tax hike — and let’s be clear, it’s really a drop in the bucket, as property taxes go. It’s not nothing, but for what we’re getting it’s beyond a worthy investment.
But, even as voting for more taxes goes — already a tough sell in Moffat County, to be sure — this particular decision is inspiring particular agitation, and, to be frank, we understand why.
With all respect and appreciation to the people who have put in the effort to try to get this measure to the finish line, we’ve got to be honest: As a whole, this effort leaves a lot to be desired.
Let’s start with the most vocal opponents: The Maybell Ambulance Service.
We don’t agree with the folks in Maybell who say they were shut out of this process — Craig Press reporting reveals a paid administrator for the service was invited from early in the process and chose not to be involved — or that, in the end, this will be the apocalyptic, culture-ending event they seem to be predicting it will be for them. But we do sympathize with their instincts that they’re under some kind of attack.
The HSD task force did their basic duty here — they had meetings in Maybell and with Maybell representatives, they invited Maybell representatives to be involved in the task force and they conducted periodic outreach to the town’s residents and ambulance service.
The issue is a matter of tone.
Maybell’s history of ambulance service is a proud one — and deservedly so. They forged their own way into the world of emergency medical services and have, through strength of will and character, kept their staffed successfully for generations. No Maybell EMT thinks the service needs help from the city, and coming into town with any notion of saving something that, to those folks, needs no savior, is misguided. From what we understand, that poisoned the relationship from Day 1. It doesn’t matter if, holistically speaking, the HSD is a good thing for Maybell — we believe it is. What matters is this is a proud community that feels it’s under siege from its larger neighbor to the east. That creates an emotional response that is nearly impossible to overcome, when the opposite could have been achieved with a little bit of tact and diplomacy.
Then there’s the other points of contention from those who plan to vote no. The perceived lack of representation on what is nominally a representative board is a real issue. It’s just not great that only five people ran for the five seats, and it looks like that was in part by design of the task force and in part by general error of the same.
The Leadville paper got the notice seeking candidates. What is that? How does that happen? What a colossal error. That just doesn’t build trust. It looks shady, whether or not it is. We’re frustrated by that mistake, because it could contribute to compromising the entire operation.
The task force was responsible for recruiting candidates, and it seems it pushed forward exactly five. The five are perfectly good options, as far as we can tell. Really good. We don’t have a problem with any of them when we zoom out and look at this as a complete picture. But it’s just too bad that there are so many connections with the hospital throughout both the process and the candidates themselves. What a missed opportunity to create ownership and trust between voters and district. We wish this had gone differently.
And finally, the sticking point of the relationship with the hospital. Is MRH really the only option in terms of H.R., billing and I.T. help? If the contention is that the board can move those services away from MRH on Day 1, why not go away on Day 0? Why not go away in the service plan? There are other contractors out there. Why has this unnecessary web of confusion been weaved — when, as the task force insists, the services will be temporary? Find anybody else.
However, once again, with all that said, we are sincere and adamant that this is right for Moffat County in spite of all our bewilderment over the process that got us here. We are hopeful that Moffat County residents might consider, as we are, looking past the sticking points to vote yes on 6A and 6B to ensure safety and security for ourselves, our neighbors and our visitors — at an extremely palatable cost — well into the future.
The Craig Press Editorial Board includes general manager Sheli Steele; editor Cuyler Meade; and community members Jon Miller and Dan Davidson.
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