City of Oregon asking taxpayers to pass referendum to keep Emergency Medical Services
OREGON (WREX) -
Imagine waiting a half hour or more for an ambulance when you or your loved one has an emergency.
That's what some say could be a reality in one Ogle County community unless a tax increase passes this spring.
This past summer, Oregon lost its community ambulance provider which served the area for more than 30 years.
So the city's Fire Protection District had to sign a temporary agreement with an ambulance service out of Loves Park. That deal is almost up.
"We have an agreement with them through the time period of the referendum in April," said Oregon Fire District Trustee, Brian Stuart. "If the referendum does not pass we will have no choice but to discontinue providing medical emergency services to the community."
The referendum would tackle the issue of financing. Stuart says the district can't afford to offer an ambulance after April unless it gets additional funding from a property tax increase. This spring, if Oregon voters approve, supporters say the Fire Protection District can bring in more revenue to operate emergency medical services.
"That will allow us to go ahead and put together a full time, 24 hr Advanced Life Support paramedic ambulance to respond out of our fire station, serve our community or residents," said Stuart.
Here's how it's proposed to impact property tax bills:
Currently, Oregon residents pay a rate of .35% to the Fire Protection District.
If the referendum passes, taxpayers would pay an additional .35%.
To put that in a dollar amount if, for example right now, you pay $100 for fire services then you'll pay another $100 for Emergency Medical Services.
"People questioning how we arrived at the figure that we are going to tax at. The fire department and the public services in general they're just that," said Stuart. "They are a public services, we are not a business we are not here to make money. We're here to make sure we can provide the necessary equipment infrastructure, personnel and equipment that is needed to mitigate an emergency that someone calls at the time."
Let's say the referendum doesn't pass.
"Then we don't have an ambulance as simple as that," said Lindsey Breeden, Friends of the Oregon Fire Protection District Coordinator. "People will suffer because yeah, they can get an ambulance but it could take anywhere from 20 minutes to 45 minutes. minutes count when you have an emergency."
Referendum supporters are starting to spread the word about this ballot item.
'We want our town to grow not diminish," said Breeden.
Friends of the Oregon Fire District will hold several community meetings to answer questions and provide information.
Tuesday, January 20th at 6:30 p.m. at the OFPD Trustees Building
Tuesday, February 10th at 6:30 p.m. at the OFPD Trustees Building
Tuesday, March 24th at 6:30 p.m. at the OFPD Trustees Building
The OFPD Trustees Building is located at 106 S. First St. in Oregon.