The intensity looks to be going up a notch or two when it comes to an ongoing effort to someday ensure an ambulance service is covering all of Garvin County.
Discussion was brief but right to the point Monday as all three county commissioners were updated on the work of two other officials looking into how to improve the service.
“I think we need to officially start the process of going to a 522 district,” said Assistant District Attorney Carol Dillingham.
“The time has come to do this. We're about providing essential services in this county and an ambulance service is definitely essential.”
Both Dillingham and Dave Johnson, Garvin County emergency management director, have for some time been working behind the scenes to look at better ways to provide ambulance services that cover the entire county.
The way it works is a 522 EMS district, which must be first approved by voters in the district, would be governed by an independent board made up of residents in the district. The district could assess property taxes and possibly issue bonds to fund the ambulance service.
“We're looking at doing whatever it takes to improve the response times and the ambulance services in the county,” she said.
“We want to explore the possibility of having at least one 522 district in the county. We want to explore having voters support one or more 522 districts.
“A 522 would enable us to provide better coverage with real paramedics.”
As Johnson explained it would be commissioners who appoint members of a 522 board, he agreed a move to one big 522 district for the county or a handful of smaller ones would be the best way to address the need for better ambulance services for all the residents.
“I think it's the best way to address the challenges. A 522 would do for the EMS system exactly what the sales tax has done for the fire departments,” Johnson said, referring to a quarter cent sales tax now funding all 12 fire departments in the county.
The ambulance district in Wynnewood is currently the only 522 district in the county.
Separate ambulance services are now covering the Pauls Valley, Lindsay, Elmore City and Stratford areas.
The “complicated” part looks to be figuring out a way to establish one or more 522 districts without having a negative impact on the existing ambulance services.
More discussion on the county's ambulance options are expected to come next week, along with the possibly of talks starting on a half cent county sales tax now set to expire in July 2021.