How an ambulance district would impact Stone County

BRANSON WEST, Mo. — On April 2, Stone County voters will decide if an ambulance district should be created. That district would be paid for by a sales tax increase of one-half of a percent.

Stone County Emergency Management got together enough petition signatures last year to get the measure on the ballot next week.

“We ended up with about 35 percent to 40 percent more signatures than we actually needed in order to get it on the ballot,” Stone County Emergency Management Director Thomas Martin said.

Martin hopes those numbers will translate into yes votes come Tuesday.

“This is an opportunity for every voter in Stone County to have the opportunity to try to save a life, because it’s really that critical,” Martin said. “We have great ambulances right now. The crews do a fabulous job. It’s nothing against any of them. But we just need more ambulances and we need to be able to to maintain what we have, if not improve.”

The lack of an ambulance district has been a hot-button issue in the county for years. Right now, Martin said Stone County is one of the few in the state that is not an ambulance district. The county relies on ambulances from Cox and Mercy Hospital.

“We only have four ambulances serving all in Stone County,” Martin said. “One of those is provided by Cox Hospital. The other three is provided by Mercy Hospital.”

If the measure passes, Martin said one of the hopes is to add two more ambulances and shorten response times.

“If it does pass, next thing that will occur will be the county will actually be divided into six equal parts as much as possible by population,” Martin said. “Then a member from each of those parts would be elected to serve on the board of directors for the ambulance district.”

Many residents said they believe more ambulances would be beneficial. However, some said they were not thrilled about the ambulance district increasing the taxes.

“I have family that’s needed ambulances before, and there’s times where you’re sitting there waiting and wondering where they can get there,” Firefighter and Emergency Medical Responder (EMR) Sherrie Kuyper said.

Kuyper is for the ambulance district and does not have an issue with it raising taxes. As a firefighter and EMR, she is often called to emergencies.

“Usually we’re first on scene and sometimes if you know, an ambulance is at another scene, we have to wait for them to get done and come back,” Kuyper said. “It can be 10 to 15 minutes or longer. Sometimes when they have to go to an emergency, to the hospital, they have to sanitize everything before they can take off and go to another call. So that makes them not available for us.”

If the measure does not pass, Martin said they will have to figure out how to keep ambulances in the county as the current partnership with Cox and Mercy could be up in the air.

“We have been advised by both Cox and by Mercy that it’s just impossible for them to continue in our present status with them simply because of all of the money they’re losing,” Martin said. “They have shown over $1,000,000 loss in revenue because of the expenses of operating to ambulances, paying personnel and just the overall operation cost.”

The polls will open at 6 a.m. and close at 7 p.m. on April 2.