Polls Open Tuesday for Benton County EMS Election

Bentonville, AR - Winter weather is threatening Benton County's heated EMS vote, but the special election will go on Tuesday as planned.

County Judge Robert Clinard says emotions are running high on both sides of the issue, but last week's snow storm smothered the first day of early voting to just 44 people. 899 early votes were cast by the closing time Monday.

"The weather is hopefully going to help us and not be too bad, so we can get more people out to vote," he says. "There's probably a very minor few percent, five percent of the roads that are shaded, that are off the beaten path that might be still a llittle bit snowy, but for the most part the roads are clear."

However, Clinard says the future of rural ambulance service in Benton County is not so clear.

"I hear a lot of people that are for it, I hear a lot of people against it," he says. "I'm not sure how the vote's going to go."

EMS providers want to be reimbursed for ambulance runs to unincorporated areas, and the county wants to collect $85 per household to cover the cost. Clinard says many people living outside the city limits say the fee isn't fair.

"The county residents feel like they pay taxes in the cities and they shouldn't have to pay this," he says. "Nobody wants anybody to be without ambulance service, but whatever in this life that you want, you've got to pay for it."

Clinard says more snow could hurt turnout, but rural residents will be on their own, should snow hit.

"We'd like to help people, we know we're going to help the poll workers get to the polls," he says. "The Sheriff has agreed to help and the road department, but the individuals that can't get out to vote, I don't know what you do about that."

Clinard hopes the voters approve the fee, but says if it fails, the quorum court will go back to the drawing board.

"We've got lot's of options," Clinard says. "They county can take this outof thier budget, and cut sevices in other areas, road department, sheriff's department and any other areas that might be cut. They can choose not to fund it, they can choose to partially fund it."

For more information, including a list of polling places, visit this site.

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