Rogers Co. Voters To Decide On Ambulance Bond

Sunday, February 8th 2009, 9:23 pm
By: News On 6

By Chris Wright, News On 6

ROGERS COUNTY -- In a time when everyone is watching their wallet, Rogers County voters have a big decision to make on a controversial bond issue. On Tuesday, they decide whether to approve a $1 million bond for a local ambulance service.

The bond would provide the Oologah-Talala Emergency Medical Services District with what it says is some much needed funding. Voters approved the same bond last summer, but there is some opposition this time around.

Two ambulances service 189-square miles near Oologah and Talala. EMT's say the ambulances, as well as other equipment, is in disrepair.

"If somebody needed to be shocked, say they needed to be resuscitated, our equipment may not do it," said Drew Williams, Oologah EMT.

If approved, a 12-year, $1 million bond would be used for new equipment and also offset what Oologah-Talala Emergency Medical Services says is the rising cost of ambulance runs.

"I got into this to help people out and I want to do it to the best of my ability," said Williams.

Williams is a part-time EMT. He used to be fulltime, but was the victim of recent cut-backs by OTEMS.

Officials say they have already laid off nearly half of their staff and their future now depends on Tuesday's vote.

"If they don't approve it, eventually I think we won't have enough money to stay as a viable entity," said Jack Greggs, Oologah-Talala Emergency Medical Services.

"I'm hoping it does pass again. We have a lot of support, but we do have very vocal opposition against this," said Susan Baker, Friends of Oologah-Talala Emergency Medical Services.

The opposition is from the Northwest Rogers County Fire Protection District. The department says it is willing and able to provide ambulance service for the Oologah-Talala area at no additional cost to taxpayers.

But, OTEMS believes the fire department's plan isn't feasible and says its employees are too talented to be let go.

"They do an absolutely wonderful job. There is not any medic here I would not want working on me or my family," said Baker.

Again, voters did approve this bond last August, but officials say a clerical error made it legally impossible to sell the bonds.

Northwest Fire points out that a number of local fire departments already run ambulance services. Those include Broken Arrow, Owasso and Skiatook.