A big yes for EMS

By Pat Jenkins The Dispatch Voters left no doubt in the primary election about their willingness to keep giving property tax dollars to pay for emergency medical services provided by Eatonville, South Pierce Fire and Rescue and Graham Fire and Rescue. EMS levies, each at a rate of 50 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation, were approved by comfortable margins in voting that ended Aug. 2. The South Pierce and Eatonville measures are for six years, while Graham voters authorized a permanent levy. Voter turnouts were low for all three jurisdictions GÇô 25 percent in Eatonville, 25 percent in South Pierce and 20 percent in Graham. Needing a simple majority of yes votes to pass, the Eatonville levy sailed through with 71 percent and South Pierce's received 67 percent. The Graham proposal, which needed a supermajority of 60 percent and at least 2,275 total votes for validation, reached both plateaus with 62 percent 5,300-plus. South Pierce, which serves an area of 130 square miles (including Ohop Lake, La Grande, Roy and Clear Lake) that has a population of about 20,000, has experienced a 14 percent increase in EMS calls since 2012, according to the fire district's officials. For the funding for that service, the district will now continue the same levy rate that was in place the past six years. The Town of Eatonville EMS services are managed by South Pierce under a five-year contract. Revenue from the Eatonville levy will be spent only in the town, which is home to approximately 2,000 people. If Eatonville ever annexes to the fire district, money from the town's levy would go to the district. The outcome of this year's primary means Graham Fire and Rescue, with a district of about 60,000 residents, won't have to ask for voter approval of an EMS levy every four to six years like it has in the past. Officials anticipated correctly that voters would agree with them that a permanent levy is a better way by eliminating the approximately $30,000 in administrative costs for each election and allowing long-range planning without the risk of levy failures. Every EMS levy in the Graham district since 1997 has passed.


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