STONE COUNTY, Mo. — For the past several years, ambulances have been few and far between in Stone County. 

“Currently, we have a total of four ambulances in Stone County,” Tom Martin, Director of the Stone County Office of Emergency Management said. “Three full-time ambulances provided by Mercy and one by CoxHealth.”

Martin said he’s recently met with leaders from both health outlets and says they’re losing money providing ambulances, without any compensation from the county. 

“Starting back in 2019, there was about $330,000 a year that was being lost combined by the two of them,” Martin said. “In 2020, $355,000; In 2021, $463,000; 2022, $887,000 and for the 2023 fiscal year, over $1 million.”

Martin is leading an effort to get a petition signed. 

That petition, if approved, would place a 1/2 of a percent sales tax on the April 2024 ballot to help fund a Stone County Ambulance District. 

Martin says if the norm continues, ambulances could be scaled back. 

“They indicated they could not sustain their current level of service. So if we lose anything, it’s going to be even worse than what we have, and put us in a more difficult situation,” Martin said. 

As of now, there are local meetings for people interested in Hurley and Crane next week. 

  • November 20, 2023, at Hurley City Hall at 6 p.m. 
  • November 21, 2023, at New Hope Church (112 Main Street) in Crane at 6 p.m.

“We present numbers. We’ve had representatives from Cox and Mercy attend those meetings as well,” Martin said. 

Martin said he understands there will be pushback from voters about another tax. 

“I don’t like to pay taxes, but the one-half of 1% would actually be $0.50 on every $100 purchase. So to me, the $0.50 is well worth paying,” Martin said. 

Officials in Kimberling City said the potential tax, a sales tax, rather than a property tax, would benefit the residents financially if they require an ambulance. 

“When you think about ambulances, you don’t actually think about them until you need them,” City Administrator Dawne Gardner said. “Now, if we were to look at or if the county were to look at property taxes, that affects only property owners in the county. So by going with us sales tax, you are you are out there collecting revenue with anyone that comes into your city or county.”

Ozarksfirst reached out to CoxHealth for a comment on the story and were given a statement that said: 

CoxHealth has been glad to join discussions considering an ambulance district for Stone County.

Ambulance service does come at a cost, and we are supportive of efforts to create an ambulance district. An ambulance district would continue to ensure that Stone County residents have 24/7 access to timely ambulance response.  

CoxHealth is proud to have a legacy of service in the county, alongside our counterparts at Mercy EMS. Both of our teams have served Stone County since the mid-1980s.

The discussions that are now underway are key to ensuring that we are able to continue meeting the needs of Stone County residents into the future.”

Ozarksfirst reached out to Mercy for comment and did not hear back.