The Pasco City Council unanimously opted Monday to give Franklin Fire District 3 another month of ambulance service at the current rate while district commissioners figure out another plan.
The city's ambulance contract with the fire district was set to expire at the end of December, but when district residents failed to approve an EMS levy in November, district officials were left scrambling to find another way to provide the service they say the district can't afford.
The levy would have cost homeowners 36 cents per $1,000 of assessed value.
Pasco has been providing ambulance service to the fire district, which covers 150 square miles around the city and about 4 square miles inside in an area called the "doughnut hole" since the late '60s or early '70s.
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Currently, the fire district pays about $30,000 a year to Pasco for the service, which includes taking patients in ambulances to hospitals.
But Pasco officials have said the cost to provide that service has gone up, and when the city decided to raise the rates for its citizens, it said the fire district needed to pay a comparable rate.
District officials told residents at a meeting last week that the fire district -- which legally is required only to provide fire protection -- could start its own ambulance service or stay with Pasco despite having no new funding source to cover the cost increase, but both showed the fire district losing money each year and eventually ending up bankrupt.
Other options include another attempt at a voter-approved levy or asking Franklin County commissioners to create an ambulance district that would charge a fee per household.
The contract extension the council approved Monday will give the district until the end of January to consider options.
w Also Monday, the council approved a $133 million budget for 2013. Councilman Bob Hoffmann voted no because the budget includes money for a new code enforcement officer, and Hoffmann said he believed there were better ways that money could have been spent.