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Bremerton Fire Department hoping for ‘Yes’ for EMS

Levy lid lift to appear on Aug. 19 ballot.

With calls for Emergency Medical Services (EMS) inching close to 8,000 a year, the Bremerton Fire Department is looking for a little community support.

The department is campaigning for an EMS levy which will be on the Aug. 19 ballot.

State law allows taxing districts to collect 50 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation of a person’s property tax for EMS services. The current levy, passed in 2003 at 50 cents per $1,000, has decreased to 31 cents. The fire department is campaigning to raise the levy back to 50 cents.

“Now we’re back down to 31 cents and we’re asking to go back to 50 cents,” Bremerton Fire Chief Al Duke said.

For a Bremerton homeowner with a house value of $200,000, the EMS levy would cost taxpayers $38 more a year or an increase of $3.16 a month.

“The EMS levy is what funds the paramedic program here,” Duke said. “This is how you pay for your EMS system.”

This levy will allow the Bremerton Fire Department to hire 7-8 people to staff a third medic unit in downtown Bremerton, according to the EMS levy campaign Web site, www.yesforems.org.

Duke said the Bremerton Fire Department has less staff than Central Kitsap Fire & Rescue and South Kitsap Fire & Rescue, but they run the same number of calls a year.

“We’re way below what they have,” Duke said.

The current levy expires after 2009, but the fire department decided to run the election a year early to cut the cost to citizens because the levy rate is dropping rapidly. If the EMS levy expires, the Bremerton Fire Department would lose more than $800,000, according to the campaign Web site.

The EMS levy has been in existence since 1980 and must be voted on every six years. The levy has to pass with 60 percent of the vote. The EMS levy has passed every year except 1979. Capt. Stan Plyler, Bremerton Fire’s medical officer, said that shows just how much the citizens of Bremerton support the department and EMS services.

“We’ve had a good history,” Plyler said. “People seem really supportive.”

“We’re real appreciative of the citizens of Bremerton. They’ve been good to us over the years,” Duke added.

He said calls for EMS services steadily increase each year. In 2007, the Bremerton Fire Department received 7,542 calls for EMS services. Duke said calls for service will continue to rise as the elderly population increases with more senior and assisted-living apartment complexes being built in Bremerton.

“The demand for service is getting higher and higher,” Duke said.

He also said the fire department collected about $1.8 million in revenue in 2008, but spent roughly $2 million, so the revenues “don’t even cover the cost of the paramedic program.”

Duke and Plyler said the Bremerton Fire Department does charge people who are transported by ambulance, but the small fee does not do much to help with covering the costs of EMS services.

“Even with the charge for ambulance service, it still doesn’t get us to where we need to be,” Plyler said.

For more information about the Bremerton Fire Department’s EMS levy, call the department at (360) 473-5386 or visit the EMS levy campaign Web site at www.yesforems.org.

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