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Benton County Pushes for Rural Ambulance Fee

CENTERTON, AR-- Several cities across Benton County need more money to continue providing emergency services to unincorporated areas. To keep those rural ambulance services running, the Quorum Court is asking citizens to pay up.
CENTERTON, AR-- Several cities across Benton County need more money to continue providing emergency services to unincorporated areas. To keep those rural ambulance services running, the Quorum Court is asking citizens to pay up.

Benton County Justice of the Peace, Susan Anglin, said "if you call 911 and there is no ambulance to come, I just find that very unacceptable.The providers that have that service are now are telling us that if we do not pay them, they are going to stop service."

She explained how an upcoming vote will decide whether rural areas receive emergency service.

"We're approaching a special election on February 11," Anglin said.

As it stands, first responders from surrounding cities serve unincorporated areas of the county. However, the price tag those cities have placed on rural services reaches hundreds of thousands of dollars so the Quorum Court is hoping to impose an annual 85 dollar household fee.

Some folks have been fighting the idea for months. One woman said, "I really don't like to be threatened that i'm not going to get ambulance service if I don't pay this fee. A fee will be a payment in advance for work that will never, may never happen or be required."

Anglin said they have explored other options "we looked at the possibility of forming our own county ambulance system, but that is very costly."

A household fee is their last resort and Anglin believes it's the only answer.

"I don't have a solution for the people that are on fixed income or the people that are struggling to make their rent and buy food, we don't have an answer for that. but we felt like for the good of our county, that this is what we're asking the people in the unincorporated area to be responsible for," Anglin said.

The Benton County Quorum Court has funded ambulance service for the first three months of 2014. That expires in March so it's up to the citizens to decide what happens next in a vote on February 11.

Here is a list of upcoming meetings to discuss the vote:
-January 20, 6 p.m. at the community building in Siloam Springs
-January 24, 6 p.m. at the Billy V. Hall Senior Center in Gravette.
-January 25, 4 p.m. in the City Council room at Lowell City Hall.
-January 28, 6 p.m. in the community room at the Pea Ridge Fire Department.
-January 30, 6:30 p.m. at the Centerton Fire Department




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