• 68°

‘Find out if public wants levy’

Paramedic voices views on commission decision

A Lawrence County EMS paramedic speaking before the county commission as a private citizen said voters should be allowed to decide if they want a levy to support the EMS.

Terry Dolin made his plea for the levy at the commission’s Tuesday work session. Deadline for placing an issue on the November ballot is today.

At its regular meeting on Aug. 1, Commission President Bill Pratt made a motion to place on the November ballot a 2-mill levy to fund EMS services and a 1.25-levy for 911 dispatching. Placing the levies before the voters was part of a Lawrence County Public Safety Funding Plan developed to provide a funding stream for both agencies over a five-year period.

The 2-mill levy would have generated $1.6 million a year and the dispatching levy would have brought in $1 million annually.

Pratt’s motion died for want of a second from Commissioner Les Boggs. Commissioner Freddie Hayes was not at that meeting, but had publicly said he was opposed to any new taxes.

“When you guys say no, you are making that decision,” Terry Dolin told the three commissioners.

Approximately three years ago, Dolin and some of his colleagues circulated petitions stating a 2-mill levy should be placed on the ballot to fund the then EMS service — the Southeast Ohio Emergency Medical Services, a tri-county agency that was disbanded at the end of 2010.

EMS professionals were looking for additional money for SEOEMS. Dolin said at that time, at least 300 signatures were collected.

In 2007 the county commission passed the initiative petition policy requiring signatures equal to 3 percent of the voters in the previous gubernatorial race be collected “for any proposed levy to be endorsed by the commissioners.”

At last week’s meeting Pratt and Boggs debated the intent of the policy.

Even with the required number of signatures that commission did not put the levy on the ballot.

“Those signatures were where the public said they wanted some kind of levy,” Dolin said.

Boggs, who said he did not remember that petition drive, is the only current commissioner who was a member of the earlier commission. Boggs said he was recently at a Russell, Ky., restaurant when other diners came up to him to applaud his decision to not allow the issue to go on the ballot because they cannot afford it.

“We might have to do something,” he said. “I don’t think this is the right time.”

With the levy the EMS would have had secured funding, Pratt said.

“Will the county have a $1 million next year?” he asked. “Most likely not.”

Without a definite funding source an EMS station could possibly be shut down and could result in loss of life, Pratt said.

“We are funding it at a very high level,” Boggs countered. “And someone saying lives could be lost. I think it is reprehensible. You are not being truthful with the people.”

Dolin said he was not at the work session as a representative of the EMS.

“I wanted to voice my opinion,” he said. “This is the perfect time to find out if the public wants the levy.”