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County looks into EMS district

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Alexis Barker, NLJ News Editor

Weston County could be the first county in Wyoming to create an emergency medical services district after the Board of Weston County Commissioners voted to begin the process on May 7. The board was scheduled to review a proposed resolution creating the district on June 4.

The idea of creating an EMS district to help fund services in Weston County was first mentioned by Shane Kirsch of the Campbell County Health EMS, who approached both the commissioners and Newcastle City Council members to discuss the service. He told the boards that creating the district and implementing a tax would help fund the future of EMS services in Weston County.

As previously reported by the News Letter Journal, Kirsch said that the taxing district would bring in roughly $400,000 annually. Campbell County Health EMS now receives a $100,000 subsidy from the city of Newcastle and about $35,000 from Weston County for services it offers here.

“The subsidies really help kind of offset costs to staff, being as the volume doesn’t exist for us to be a totally sustainable option in those communities,” he said during a previous interview.

Kirsch reported that the annual operations cost per ambulance for 24-hour, everyday service is about $500,000 for a basic life support crew of two emergency medical technicians basics, or about $800,000 for a crew that can perform advanced-lifesaving skills, which allows an advanced life-support-level response. Costs increase to about $1.1 million for a crew of two paramedics, as opposed to EMT’s.

Due to continued concerns over funding the local ambulance service, City Council member Tyrel Owens discussed the creation of a district with the commissioners on May 7.

“I think it is a good source of income if the constituents find it favorable. … That we could maybe try to negate some of the issues we are having with emergency medical services in the county,” Owens said.

At the time, Commissioner Ed Wagoner explained that, under rules created by the Wyoming Legislature in 2023, the commissioners could approve a resolution creating the district. This, he said, would start the process of forming the board, creating boundaries and eventually getting a tax approved by the voters, following a 60-day comment period before approval of the resolution.

Wagoner noted that it would likely be at least 18 months from resolution approval to receiving actual funding.

After the discussion, Wagoner said he was “going out on a limb” when he made a motion to proceed with forming the district.

State law

According to Wyoming Statute 18-12-105, a district may be created by resolution of the county commissioners. It also states that the public must be given an opportunity to provide input before the creation is official.

“Not less than sixty (60) days before any resolution pursuant to this subsection is signed, the board of county commissioners shall hold a public hearing and publish the proposed resolution, including the date and time of the public hearing, in a newspaper of general circulation in the county and on the county’s website,” the bill states. “The board of county commissioners shall submit the proposed boundaries of the district to the county assessor and the department of revenue for review for any conflict, overlap, gap or other boundary issue.”

At this point, the assessor and the Wyoming Department of Revenue may also make written comments to the county commissioners before the public hearing, but it will ultimately be up to the voters to decide how much money the district can raise.

County Attorney Michael Stulken said the statute allows for up to four mills to be approved by the voters and board of electors to provide funding for the district.

“If the district was formed under W.S. 18-12-105(b) as a district to provide emergency medical services, the tax for the district shall not exceed four (4) mills if the mills are approved by the board of directors and approved by the electors as provided in subsection (c) of this section,” the statute states.

Subsection (c) states that if the mills are approved by the district’s board of directors, the board of county commissioners “shall call an election within the district upon the question of whether the mill levy should be imposed.”

It notes that the “mill levy is effective only if the question is approved by a majority of those voting thereon within the district providing emergency medical services. The cost of any special election under this subsection shall be borne by the board of directors.”

Subsection(d) further states that “If the proposition to authorize a mill levy is approved, the tax shall
remain in effect until a petition to discontinue the tax, signed by not less than ten percent (10%) of the voters of the district, is received by the board of county commissioners, at which time the proposal to discontinue the tax shall be submitted to the voters of the district at the expense of the county at the next general election. If the proposition to impose or discontinue the tax is defeated, the proposition shall not again be submitted to the electors for at least twenty-three (23) months.”

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