Pocahontas County

Voters approve EMS taxes

-Messenger file photo by Bill Shea
Shelley Stumpf, an emergency medical technician, and David Kraft, a paramedic, check equipment in the back of a Pocahontas Community Hospital ambulance. Kraft is holding the cables used to connect a patient to a heart monitor.

POCAHONTAS — Trained personnel, both paid and volunteer, are prepared to come to the rescue whenever someone needs emergency care in Pocahontas County.

The county’s voters decided in November that they are willing to pay some additional taxes to make sure that emergency medical service remains available.

Those voters approved the levies by a roughly 78 percent margin in the November general election.

“The people of Pocahontas County spoke loud and clear that they want emergency medical service to be an essential service for their county,” said James Roetman, the chief executive officer and administrator of Pocahontas Community Hospital.

For a long time, emergency medical service was not considered an essential service like police and fire protection in the state of Iowa. A law enacted in 2021 declared EMS to be an essential service and made it possible for counties to enact levies to pay for it.

After that law was approved, a committee of hospital and community leaders began working on a funding proposal to be submitted to the voters.

The proposal called for a property tax of 21 cents per $1,000 of taxable value and a 1 percent income tax.

The voters approved that plan on Nov. 8.

A 60 percent majority was needed, but by the time the polls closed 78.44 percent of the voters had cast their ballot in favor of the EMS levies.

“That was overwhelming,” Roetman said.

“This was a group effort by a lot of people in Pocahontas County,” he added. “I want to thank everybody for their efforts to help get this passed.”

The two new taxes will generate an estimated $250,000 a year for EMS.

That money won’t start coming in for a while, though.

The new property tax will go into effect on July 1. The new income tax will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2024.

Roetman said it will be 18 months before any of that revenue starts coming in.

Planning the use of that money will begin much sooner, however. The county’s 13-member Emergency Medical Service Advisory Committee will prepare a budget. Roetman said that will be the first step.

Pocahontas Community Hospital has the largest EMS unit in the county, with three ambulances at the hospital and one in Laurens. It is the only provider of paramedic level care and the only one with paid personnel.

Fonda and Rolfe have ambulance services.

Gilmore City and Palmer have first responder units that treat patients before the ambulance arrives, but do not transport patients.


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