WEST SILOAM SPRINGS, OK Residents of West Siloam Springs, Watts and Colcord will be without ambulance service as of Jan. 1, 2009 when the Siloam Springs, AR ambulance service will no longer cross the Oklahoma state line to respond to emergency medical emergencies.

Members of the West Siloam Springs City Council, Delaware County Commissioner District #3 Dave Kendrick, West Siloam Springs Police Chief Larry Barnett, Delaware County Sheriff Jay Blackfox and concerned citizens met with representatives with the Cherokee Nation on Nov. 12 to discuss what options would be available to the communities for emergency services.

According to the Siloam Springs Board of Directors, the taxpayers in Siloam Springs are no longer willing to fund the ambulance runs into Oklahoma.

In addition, ambulance personnel say the only money they receive from the runs are from Medicare and private insurance, which causes them to lose money when individuals do not pay the cost of $1,500 per run.

West Siloam Springs Mayor Elaine Carr told the group that the Board of Directors put a price tag of $202,000 a year to make emergency runs in the city limits of West Siloam Springs, but the towns of Watts and Colcord would still be unprotected.

The closest ambulance to the area is located at Oaks and the Cherokee Nation also responds to southern Delaware County, but only as far as the Flint area.

Several avenues to fund the service were discussed during the meeting, including a millage increase for the five school districts in the area, a sales tax increase in the towns in southern Delaware County, and putting an fee on cell phones or utility services.

Cherokee Nation representatives attended the meeting and said they were willing to put a satellite station in, but like any other ambulance service, there would need to be funding in place for the service.

According to Commissioner Kendrick that funding would amount to approximately $400,000 for the first year and an approximate $300,000 a year after that.

Carr announced she is going to meet with the Mayor of Siloam Springs as well as representatives from the Cherokee Nation and would try and find, in more detail, what their options might be.

We dont want to raise taxes, but this is a life and death issue, said Carr.

One concerned citizen in the group expressed what most were feeling when he said, I guess someone will have to die before we can get this changed.