GRANGEVILLE — Idaho County Commissioners cleared the way Tuesday for Riggins-area residents to vote on whether to form an ambulance taxing district.
The measure will now be on the May 17 primary ballot for voters living in the proposed ambulance district to decide and would require a simple majority for approval. The property tax cost, if approved, would be 0.04% or $40 for every $100,000 of assessed property value per year.
Fewer than 10 people showed up Tuesday at a public meeting in the 2nd District courtroom the commissioners had set aside for consideration of the proposal. Two people spoke out in favor, and Clerk Kathy Ackerman read two emails from other Riggins-area residents who questioned or opposed the proposal.
But Commission Chairman Skip Brandt noted that 52 people had signed a petition supporting the creation of the tax district and Riggins City Council also passed a resolution supporting it.
“It’s pretty clear to me that there’s a lot of support for that,” Brandt said.
Cody Killmar, director of the Riggins Emergency Medical Service group, told commissioners that the two people who had raised questions or doubts about the proposal had ideas that could be considered in the future.
“But we’re in a state of emergency now,” Killmar said.
There are only five approved EMS volunteers on the roster and all have full-time jobs elsewhere, he said, making it difficult to staff an ambulance service all the time.
Killmar pointed out that in 2016, when the Riggins Ambulance Service was established, the organization responded to 91 emergency calls. The following year, this figure rose to 114 calls; 125 calls in 2020; 207 calls in 2021; and in January and February this year alone, he said, the ambulance has already received 57 calls and expects the total for the year to exceed 300 calls.
The proposed ambulance district covers a large geographic area of 932 square miles, stretching from the Snake River in the west to Mackay Bar on the Salmon River in the east; and from Black Hawk Bar near Slate Creek along US Highway 95 north to the Idaho/Adams County line south.
In this area, said Bill Sampson of the Riggins City Council, is Idaho’s main north-south highway with a constant flow of tourists, hunters and fishers, as well as two major waterways and a significant portion of the US Forest Service rugged lands.
It’s primarily Riggins’ roughly 400 residents who currently have to fund the ambulance service, Sampson said. The creation of an ambulance district in Salmon River would spread the tax burden between other rural residents and ambulance users.
“I’m super happy we’re at this point where people can vote on this,” Killmar said. “Without this, we will not be able to remain in service 24/7.”