The time to make a decision about the fate of the Northern Edgar County Ambulance Service is long past due.
Earlier this year the NECAS board started a process to create a special service area to collect a tax for keeping the ambulance service operational. The goal was to have the process done in time to receive tax funding in 2020 but delays have kept that from happening. It will now be 2021 before any tax money is available.
A troubling issue arose at the most recent NECAS meeting when the Ross Township representative said the consensus among his fellow township supervisors is not to support a special service area because that imposes a tax without letting residents vote on it.
We respectfully disagree with the Ross Township Board. The law authorizing the creation of a special service area has a challenge provision.
A minimum 120-day waiting period follows a county board’s passage of an ordinance before a special service area is finalized. This waiting period is broken into two 60-day periods and gives opponents time to take action.
A public hearing occurs at the end of the first 60-day period during which people living in the proposed area may express opinions about the idea. The second 60-day period follows the public hearing providing opponents time to circulate a petition against the idea.
Residents have a say on the tax issue by either signing or refusing to sign the petition, if one is circulated. This is perhaps not the same as deciding the question in a referendum, but it is voter participation and is equally conclusive.
Theoretically, the other townships can move ahead if Ross Township does not join the special service area, but that blocks Chrisman from participating and receiving ambulance service since Ross Township surrounds the largest community in northern Edgar County.
Elected officials have the delicate balancing act of always being aware they are using public money while also meeting the needs of a community. The Ross Township Supervisors need to ask themselves the bigger question of what the future of ambulance service for northern Edgar County looks like if they fail to join their fellow supervisors from Prairie, Brouilletts Creek, Edgar, Shiloh and Young America townships, the boards of Hume and Metcalf and the Chrisman City Council in supporting a special service area for the ambulance.
Are they willing to put Ross Township residents, and others, at risk of waiting up to 30 minutes for an ambulance to arrive from Paris or Georgetown? That is assuming those ambulances will respond without a service agreement in place.
We believe having a locally sited ambulance to quickly respond when a rural resident is having a heart attack, a child at Chrisman or Shiloh school falls ill, a farmer is injured at a remote location or there is an accident on a township road outweighs the semantics of whether taxpayers vote on the issue or decide it with a petition.
We urge Ross Township to join their friends and neighbors in creating a special service area.