SILOAM SPRINGS, AR – City Administrator David Cameron, Fire Chief Jimmy Harris and Lieutenant Stan Shelley invited community leaders from Delaware County to city hall Feb. 25, to discuss options for returning ambulance service to Delaware County.
Cameron noted that it has been a year since the last time the group had been together in a room to discuss their options.
“The city’s interest has never been in asking for the money all up front,” Cameron said. “We’re here in good faith to show that we’re still willing to provide service, but we need to see a plan.”
Delaware County Commissioner Dave Kendrick said that he and the Delaware County Sheriff Jay Blackfox had been exploring funding options, but had been repeatedly disappointed in their efforts. He said a sale tax option didn’t seem likely to be approved, but that while he would like to see a charge for the service added to a utility bill, such as a cell phone bill, that option might not be feasible either.
Cameron said there are approximately 13 counties across Oklahoma that are currently without EMS service, and encouraged the Delaware County leaders to get in touch with them to try to form a lobby for the state legislature. He said he would be willing to help the group and lobby some on their behalf. He pointed out that while each of the mostly rural counties had little power on their own, together they represented a fair number of voters.
“You may be the county that gets it done and fixes things long term,” Cameron said.
Kendrick agreed with Cameron.
“We’re going to have to load up, go to Oklahoma City and say, ‘You’re going to have to listen.’” Kendrick said. “We need some help.”
Cameron told the group that if they could find the funding, Siloam Springs would be willing to begin running the ambulance service again immediately, as long as they saw good faith effort being put forth.
“If you pass a sales tax on a Tuesday, it would take us a few days to readjust, but we could be back up and running by that Friday, even without money in the bank,” Cameron said. “That would show us you’re making an effort.”
At the present time, Siloam Springs is covering the West Siloam Springs city limits only, at a cost of $202,000 a year, or $16,833.00 a month.
Cherokee Nation Enterprises became the answer to a prayer for West Siloam Springs when they offered to foot the bill for the service in an agreement last December. “This is only temporary funding. We are in the process of trying to pass a 3-mil increase on Colcord and Moseley school districts and we hope to pass a 1˘ sales tax increase for the town of West Siloam Springs on April 7.” said West Siloam Springs Mayor Elaine Carr.
In the meantime, residents in Colcord, Moseley and Watts are being covered by the Oaks and Jay ambulances.