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Benton County Returning to Voters for EMS Funding

Benton County's Quorum Court approved adding two measures to the November ballot during a special session Tuesday night for rural ambulance service.
Bentonville -- Benton County's Quorum Court approved adding two measures to the November ballot during a special session Tuesday night for rural ambulance service.

One option asks for the households in unincorporated areas of the county to pay a $40 dollar annual fee, which would raise more than half a million dollars.

The second ballot measure will go before all voters, including those in the cities, and would create a county-wide tax increase equivalent to about $4 a year for a $100,000 property.

There was some concern that putting two options on the ballot could split the yes vote, but ultimately the quorum court members decided to let the public decide on each measure.

Now the county judge says it is time to educate voters, in hopes that one or both of the ballot issues will pass.

"The one thing that everyone agrees on is that we need to have ambulance service,” says Tom Allen, Benton County Justice of the Peace for District 4. “The one thing we're not agreeing on is how to pay for it."

State law does not require the county, or the cities to provide ambulance service to unincorporated areas. On Monday the Benton County Legislative Committee voted to ask state legislators to look into changing Arkansas law, to force providers to continue without pay.

"They felt like it was a life safety issue and that it shouldn't be something that's regarded to whether you’re going to pay for it or not,” says Allen, who disagrees. "I voted no on it, not because I'm not a compassionate person. “I do believe that we need to have ambulance service. I think that the county should step up and pay for it if we don’t find a resolution to this."

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