Dear San Juan Islanders,
In recent weeks, there has been controversy and confusion in our community around the February 8th ballot measure asking voters to continue public support of Emergency Medical Services (EMS) on San Juan Island.
For over 30 years this community has funded EMS through the Public Hospital District (PHD). Everyone has heard about the excellent care our EMS professionals provide.
Four years ago a Citizen’s Advisory Group (CAG) considered combining the services of EMS and Fire District #3 (FD#3) into a single island-wide organization and recommended how that might be accomplished. The CAG's 116-page report was issued in April 2019.
Integrating two independent agencies is complicated and takes time and patience. It involves licenses held by the Washington Department of Health, many different legal issues, property transfers, staffing issues and more.
Beginning in May 2019 the EMS board and the FD#3 board worked hard to merge the two agencies without success. In Fall 2020 the agencies walked away from the idea as unworkable at that point in time. A lot of opinions and strong feelings are left.
In November 2021 FD#3, with PHD approval, asked voters to approve a new property tax levy to pay for EMS management. It failed.
The PHD, knowing that the current EMS levy will run out at the end of 2022, voted to pursue funding for EMS independent of FD#3. That is where we are now.
A“Yes” vote in the coming election continues EMS funding for 6 more years.
A “No” vote opposes funding EMS beyond the end of 2022. A “No” vote does not mean that FD3 will “take over” EMS.
EMS staff and volunteers together with the four paramedics represented by the International Association of Firefighters (IAFF) have supported the renewal of the EMS levy.
If the February PHD levy fails, the PHD will go to the voters again for EMS funding. They could do this in April, August or November.
It is time to set aside the proposed merger for now. Both parties will benefit from taking a step back to reconsider the issues and re-examine the CAG's plan.
The plan for integrating EMS and FD3 laid out by the CAG can be implemented in the future when leadership of FD3 is ready to collaborate with the PHD as equal partners in public service.
The responsibility of the PHD board now is to ensure that EMS services are funded and provided in the best possible way to our community.
I am excited about what I see happening in our district with our programs and healthcare partners. I have been nothing but impressed with EMS’s first responders.
Please join me in voting “Yes” to renew EMS funding.
Anna Lisa Lindstrum