Merger of Eagle County ambulance district approved, 47-6
EAGLE COUNTY — It can honestly be argued that nearly 90 percent of the people who cast ballots in last week’s Eagle County Paramedic Services merger election favored the ballot question.
But it also must be noted that only 53 ballots were cast.
The merger question passed with 47 votes in favor and six votes opposed. The election means the formal consolidation of Eagle County’s two ambulance districts can proceed and property taxes for downvalley residents will be cut in half next year as a result.
Eagle County Paramedic Services is completing the process of merging the services of Eagle County Health Service District (which serves eastern Eagle County) and Western Eagle County Health Services District. The consolidation plan required an inclusion election for voters in the current downvalley service area, including Eagle and Gypsum. That election was held last week and recorded low turnout numbers.
Voters approved a measure amending boundaries allowing the lower valley ambulance district to be included in the service area for the Eagle County Paramedic Services District. Passage of the measure dissolves the western county ambulance district and will reduce property tax rates from the current 5 mills to 2 mills. That mill levy drop will happen in 2015.
Property owners in western Eagle County currently pay roughly $40 per $100,000 of property value to fund the ambulance district. The reduction would cut taxes by more than half, bringing the cost to slightly less than $16 per $100,000 of valuation. Property owners currently in the eastern county service area will continue to be taxed at a rate of 2 mills.
‘Simplest’ Way to Finalize Deal
Eagle County Paramedic Services officials noted that last week’s election was the simplest way to finalize the merger procure. The actual consolidation began May 1 when all paramedic service employees in the county were moved to the same shift schedule and began working at any of the five ambulance stations in the county.
“We think the decision to create a countywide health service district makes sense both operationally and financially,” said Christopher Montera, assistant CEO of Eagle County Paramedic Services and Western Eagle County Health Services District former chief. “Merging our services has improved coverage as we can now move resources throughout the county to assure quick response.”
With the election approval, the two boards of directors for the separate districts will be consolidated, and the merging process should be complete by late October.