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Benton County EMS Future Unclear

BENTONVILLE, Ark. -- The future of Benton County's emergency medical service is still unclear, after voters shot down a household fee to help pay for rural ambulance runs.
BENTONVILLE, Ark. -- The future of Benton County's emergency medical service is still unclear, after voters shot down a household fee to help pay for rural ambulance runs.

"An ambulance is a losing proposition every year," says Gravette Mayor Byron Warren. "It's not a moneymaker."

Warren says the drain on his budget is well worth the peace of mind it provides.

"It helps save our citizens lives," he says. "That's the most important thing, is to make sure our citizens are safe."

The Mayor says Tuesday's vote will cut his EMS budget by $50,000, but that won't stop Gravette paramedics from running to unincorporated areas.

"Most of our runs are into the county and if we didn't do those runs... then we wouldn't be able to afford the ambulance for the city," he says. "It's kind of one feeds the other... I know some of the bigger cities have quite a bit more at stake, because they were asking for more money."

Siloam Springs Fire Chief Greg Neely says a state statute forbids using municipal resources outside city limits without a service agreement.

"Call volume is not an issue for us... it's breaking the law," Neely says. "When that funding mechanism is no longer there, we won't be able to provide the service."

The county finance committee is holding a special meeting Thursday on the third floor of the administration building at 6pm to discuss the issue.

"My sense is they will find some level of funding for 2014, and then try to come up with another permanent mechanism into the future," Neely says. "Nobody wants to see the ambulance service cease."

Warren says Gravette service will continue, even if the county can't come up with the cash. He says he'll fight to change law before he refuses to answer an emergency call.

"If money is the most important thing, then we're in the wrong business," Warren says. "Community is where it's at, and if we can't help each other and each others communities then I don't know why we're here."


(KNWA, Fayetteville)
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