Meeting Wednesday at Chiawana High to discuss ambulance options for unincorporated areas of Franklin County

By Paula Horton, Tri-City HeraldDecember 10, 2012 

In about three weeks, residents living in the unincorporated parts of Franklin County surrounding the city of Pasco may not be able to get an ambulance to take them to the hospital in an emergency.

Franklin Fire District 3 contracts with the Pasco Fire Department to provide advance life support services and ambulance transports, but the contract expires at the end of the year.

Officials hoped an EMS levy would get approved in the general election to provide funding for the fire district to cover the increased contract costs with Pasco, but the tax measure failed with 60 percent of voters saying no.

Since then, fire commissioners have been trying to find a way to make sure ambulance service is available once the new year starts.

Information about what options are being pursued will be presented to residents at a community meeting Wednesday. The meeting starts at 6 p.m. at Chiawana High School's Black Box Theatre.

"We're going to discuss the options with the public and try to give them an idea of what's happened and try to solicit citizen action committee team members at that meeting," said Fire District Commissioner Tom Hughes.

Fire officials have had discussions with the volunteer firefighters to see whether they would be in support of the district establishing its own EMS service and have researched what that will take.

Right now, firefighters are called out to medical emergencies and can provide basic life support services, but they don't own an ambulance.

The fire district was paying about $30,000 to Pasco for its service, but that bill was going up to $90,000 in 2013 and $180,000 in 2014.

Hughes said they're continuing to negotiate with Pasco officials, but right now "we do not have ambulance service as of the first of the year."

In a worst-case scenario, with no EMS levy or other way to get additional funding, the fire district would have to borrow money in 2015 to continue to operate if it kept its contracted service with Pasco, Hughes said.

There are 2,613 households in the Fire District 3 boundaries, but that number will drop to 1,889 after Jan. 1 when some homes in an area known as the "doughnut hole" officially become part of the city of Pasco.

With fewer households in the fire district's area, officials are working on getting a reduced rate for ambulance service by Pasco, but Hughes said they'll still need to find a way to pay for the contracted service.

-- Paula Horton: 582-1556; phorton@tricityherald.com

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