Related topics

Cities work on EMS funding agreement

September 8, 2018 GMT

MOUNT VERNON — Representatives from Skagit County’s four cities disagreed at a meeting Thursday on how to distribute emergency medical services levy dollars.

This is one of the last major hurdles facing a plan to dissolve the Central Valley Ambulance Authority and have the four cities provide the bulk of ambulance services, county EMS Director Jeff Sargent said.

Officials from Anacortes, Burlington, Mount Vernon and Sedro-Woolley agreed to work out a deal ahead of a meeting Tuesday with the county commissioners. If they don’t reach an agreement, the commissioners will prescribe one.

The four cities, alongside Aero Skagit — which serves the county east of Hamilton — will be the county’s primary ambulance providers next year.


Of the $8.2 million that will be collected in 2019 through the county EMS levy — approved by 66 percent of voters in August — the providers have $6 million to split, Sargent said.

Mount Vernon Fire Chief Bryan Brice proposed an even split per ambulance, considering the costs of staffing paramedics 24 hours a day are the same regardless of the number of calls to which they respond.

Using an even split, he said, would let the cities solve this issue quickly and let them get to hiring former Central Valley paramedics before they consider leaving the county.

If the decision takes much longer, “we will not have a pool of candidates to hire,” Brice said.

However, because as the county’s most populous city Mount Vernon responds to about 40 percent of the county’s emergency calls, it would stand to receive more insurance reimbursements, said Eron Berg, city supervisor and attorney for Sedro-Woolley.

An equitable funding structure should account for that, he said.

“Mount Vernon has more calls in six blocks than (Aero Skagit) has in its whole coverage area,” Berg said.

The county’s EMS stakeholders are also considering such variables as size of response area, average response time and annual mileage put on ambulances.

The transition committee has already divvied up ambulances and other assets formerly owned by Central Valley, set response areas for the cities and have a draft of a detailed list of responsibilities for the providers.

In order to free up more money for the ambulance providers, the county commissioners agreed at the meeting to maintain a smaller reserve fund than they have in the past.