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Robert Sochia cleans up after taking a patient into the Emergency Room at O'Bleness on Friday, Feb. 15, 2019. (FILE)

Athens County EMS levy passes

Issue 19, a levy to renew the original $1 mill levy for the Emergency Medical Services of Athens County, passed with 75.74% of the vote. 

The Athens County EMS relies heavily on the levy, which makes up about 50% of the service’s budget. The Athens County EMS currently staffs five stations in the county and provides service 24 hours a day.

Almost all of the money will go toward medical equipment and keeping the level of service that Athens County EMS provides, ACEMS Chief Rick Callebs said. 

“I’m a former EMT, so I’m really excited that that one got funded,” Michael Fletcher, an Athens Township resident, said. “(It’s a) critical community service. It has done so much and continues to do so much for the community, it would be a shame not to continue to support it. EMS has been underfunded forever and you know those guys work their tail off for nothing. 24-hour shifts, they’re just killing themselves and they get paid hardly anything.”

The levy was not an increase to the taxes as it was asking for the same amount it has over the past five years. The funding for the EMS services is 50% property tax and 50% patient billing. 

“I’m not gonna be a cheapskate when it comes to medical services,” Gerry Smith, an Athens County resident, said. “If I end up horizontal on the street, I want (EMS) to show up and be funded.”

This levy is voted on for renewal every five years and is in rotation with others that are staggered to be voted on within the five years so EMS will have sufficient funding. 

“Yeah, I think that all of those programs are good to have,” Abby Karagory, a sophomore studying early childhood education, said.  

The levy money is used to purchase new equipment as well as maintain existing equipment. The price of the new equipment continues to increase over the years and the money that is taken from the levies covers the cost. 

“EMS, I’m really glad people supported that,” Beth Clodfelter, the newly elected At-Large councilwoman, said. “Who knows when you’re gonna need it. It’s really important to have a strong EMS program cause anybody might end up needing their assistance at some time.”

City Law Director Lisa Eliason and Mayor Steve Patterson also expressed support for the EMS levy. Both said that it is extremely important to the county.

“They’re doing great work but again they’re finding themselves strapped more and constantly having to serve more people throughout the county so it’s just good,” Patterson said. “It’s good that it passed.”


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