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OPINION: Whatcom County leaders urge ‘yes’ vote on EMS levy

Voters will decide whether to renew the measure in Nov. 8 election

An illustration of someone casting their Washington State voter ballot. // Illustration by Milo Openshaw

Guest submission by Scott Korthuis, mayor of Lynden; (360) 255-7111;

A levy request in November is a matter of life or death.

For decades, Whatcom County has enjoyed exceptional emergency services, but the Emergency Medical Services’ (EMS) primary funding source is up for renewal in Whatcom County. We encourage everyone to support the continued funding of this program. When you call 911 with a medical emergency you expect the ambulance to come as quickly as possible. To maintain the county’s rapid, effective service, we must vote YES for the EMS levy on the ballot. Our EMS program saves lives.   

Six years ago, with 60% voter approval, the funding of EMS was changed from a combination of sources to primarily a property tax levy. It is currently a $100 assessment for a $500,000 home. But this critical levy is coming to an end and requires renewal. 

The proposed levy seeks a $50 annual increase in funding – only about the cost of a cup of coffee a month. We think voters will agree that this is a small price for the prompt, effective service we have come to expect. 

Our EMS program has two elements: Basic Life Support (BLS) and Advanced Life Support (ALS). The BLS component is currently funded by local fire districts. ALS is funded by the EMS levy. In many fire districts in the county, BLS is operated by volunteers. As society changes, finding volunteers is getting much more difficult. To alleviate this problem, the new EMS levy will also begin to support the BLS service in the county – a change that will give better service to many county residents and augment other BLS programs.

County growth has stretched the limits of the current system. To accommodate this growth, a fifth Advanced Life Support (ALS) unit is being added. Studies indicated that the best location for this new unit would be in Lynden; from this location, much of the northern and eastern portion of the county can be better served. This addition will also relocate two ALS stations, reducing call response times over the entire county. We know that “time is of the essence” when Advanced Life Support is required.  

Over the past six years, costs have increased for everything – including running our EMS program. But the program we have is well-managed and is committed to providing excellent service. Join us in voting YES on the EMS levy.

This column was co-authored by Whatcom County Executive Satpal Sidhu and the seven mayors of Whatcom County cities: Bruce Bosch (Sumas), Seth Fleetwood (Bellingham), Greg Hansen (Ferndale), Kevin Hester (Nooksack), Scott Korthuis (Lynden), John Perry (Everson) and Mary Lou Steward (Blaine).

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