Drive to put countywide ambulance district on Cape April ballot

Monday, September 22, 2008

A four-person political action group has formed with the intent of convincing Cape Girardeau County voters to support a countywide ambulance district.

"None of us four are going to make a penny off this. None of us are going to work for the district, or run the district," said Randy Everett of Jackson.

Everett, who teaches paramedic and emergency medical technician classes for Cape Girardeau Public Schools, said he and his wife, registered nurse Carla Everett, along with another registered nurse, Barbara Mueller, and paramedic respiratory therapist Ron Kiplinger, started working on the idea more than a year ago. Nine months ago, he said, they formed a political action group. They hired a lawyer and started putting together a six-page website, www.voteyesforems.org.

Everett said his group is convinced that people living in rural areas of the county would benefit from an ambulance district because it would allow vehicles and technicians to be posted throughout the county rather than focused on the county's two largest cities, Cape Girardeau and Jackson.

Everett said his group met earlier this year with various first responders throughout the county to see if the ballot initiative would garner support. He said about a month ago, petitions were distributed around that county and have so far drawn 1,000 signatures of the 3,700 it needs. The petition signatures would have to be verified by the county clerk before the proposal would go on the ballot. The group's website indicates the measure is intended for an April vote.

The county currently has an exclusive contract with the private Cape County Ambulance Service. The service charges between $150 and $680 per run; fees are due at the time of service, according to documents filed with the county. Everett said a countywide ambulance district would be supported by a permanent property tax, to the tune of about $60 a year, and governed by a 6-member board of directors elected by voters.

"I don't want to speak bad about the current service," Everett said. "That's not what we're about. It's time we had better service for the whole county. Rural areas can be covered better with decreased response times for the patients and if they were funded correctly, in a not-for-profit, we should be able to have modern and up-to-date training as well as be better able to handle the increasing disaster needs of the county."

Everett said he attended a meeting Tuesday with city and county officials as well as Southeast Missouri Hospital and Saint Francis Medical Center, but that he was more of a witness than a participant. He declined to comment on the discussion at the meeting, but said ambulance service is "a public safety issue. Most people wouldn't expect a private police department or a private fire department."

A public meeting is planned for 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday at the New McKendree United Methodist Church, 1770 S. Hope St. in Jackson. For details, call 204-1917.

pmcnichol@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 127

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