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County commissioners approve EMS funding plan

September 13, 2018

MOUNT VERNON — The Skagit County commissioners approved Tuesday a plan on how to distribute emergency medical services levy money to the four cities that will provide ambulance services.

Under the agreement, Anacortes, Burlington, Mount Vernon and Sedro-Woolley will each receive between about $1.1 million and $1.5 million annually to provide ambulance services.

In addition to the about $6 million in annual funding allocated to the cities at a meeting Thursday, the mayors from the cities asked for, and received, an additional one-time payment of $800,000.

EMS Director Jeff Sargent said the $800,000 will come out of the EMS reserve fund, bringing the balance to $4.7 million, enough for about six months of operations.

That $800,000 will be split between the cities for start-up costs, Sargent said.

Deciding how to divide the EMS money was one of last major hurdles facing a plan to dissolve the Central Valley Ambulance Authority and have the four cities provide the bulk of ambulance services starting Jan. 1, he said.

Eron Berg, Sedro-Woolley city supervisor and attorney, said Sedro-Woolley’s portion of the $800,000 — $184,800 — will help cover uniforms and equipment, and will help make up for a lag in insurance reimbursements for patient transports.

“We would have made it work under the other scenario,” Berg said. “This just makes it much easier for us.”

Mount Vernon Fire Chief Bryan Brice agreed, Mount Vernon’s share of the $800,000 — $222,400 — wasn’t make or break for the city, but it does put the city in a better place to succeed come 2019.

At Thursday’s meeting, Sargent said he would not be comfortable with a reserve fund of less than $5.5 million.

In the event that the public votes down a future EMS levy, he said he would need to temporarily contract with a private company to provide ambulance service for the county.

“The less money we have to offer, the less resources they’ll provide,” he said.

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