By Craig Day, The News On 6
UNDATED -- An EMS board meets Friday night to figure out more ways to trim its budget. Voters approved a bond issue for extra funding, but a clerical error means the Oologah-Talala EMS District can't move forward. That's led to layoffs, cutbacks and the possibility of another vote.
Voters in the Oologah-Talala EMS District already approved a bond issue to help raise operating funds by just 10 votes. It would have raised a million dollars over 12 years for the district's budget. But, a clerical error in the publication of the election essentially makes it void.
"The clerical error was the lack of publication. Someone forgot to publish in the newspaper the proclamation of election. When that happened our bond council said the attorney general will not approve the sale of the bonds," said district board member Bob Sweet.
The district's inability to move forward with bonds has led to layoffs of nearly half of its employees and scaling back one of the district's two ambulances to just 40 operating hours a week.
"We've been operating at a loss for the past seven years," said district board member Bob Sweet.
The EMS District Board is now asking Rogers County Commissioners to call for a special election in February to re-run the bond issue.
The ambulance service covers 189 square miles with a large number of elderly residents in the district. It's feared the cutbacks both in personnel and equipment will dramatically affect response time for people in need.
"If you are having a heart attack, response time is everything. If you are the one laying on the side of the road or if you are the one laying in your living room and you are having to wait 13 to 15 minutes for an ambulance to get there, that could be the difference between life and death," said district board member Bob Sweet.
Backers hope the financial pressures don't come to that. They hope they can gain support from voters one more time. The Rogers County Commission will likely decide Monday whether to call for a special election. If voters approve the measure, the ambulance could return to full capacity within a few months after the election.
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