Ballard County leaders say their budget faces major cuts after their number one employer, the Verso paper mill, idles indefinitely starting Nov.1. The one thing they can't afford to lose is their ambulance service.
On Nov. 3, voters there will have a choice for or against an ambulance tax for 7 cents on every $100-worth of property. That means you would pay $70 more for every $100,000-worth of property.
Seconds matter in a medical emergency when you live out in a rural county. Ballard's ambulance service is a four-person staff. Emergency Management Director and EMT Travis Holder says their services are anything but under-utilized, responding to anywhere from 1,000 to 1,600 calls per year.
"We can do just about everything an emergency room can in the back of that ambulance," Holder says.
Holder says they're stretched thin, and the ambulance service would feel any budget cuts. "It's going to impact response time, and it's going to impact what we do," he says.
The Ballard County Ambulance Service is classified as an advanced life support service, as opposed to basic service, because of specialized training and equipment.
But when Verso idles, and if voters don't approve the tax, it's at risk.
Ballard County Judge Executive Vickie Viniard says times are hard, but the county shouldn't skimp on the ambulance service.
"When it comes to a life, there's nothing any more important than emergency services," Viniard says.
A 'no' vote on the ballot could turn seconds into minutes in an emergency.
On the Nov. 3 ballot will be a question asking if you are for or against the tax.
As for how people in town feel, they say they're split. They know it's needed, but don't want more money taken out of their pockets.
The county estimates the tax would generate $285,000 for the ambulance services in the county.