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Arlington EMS levy fails by just 41 votes

ARLINGTON — With a final vote count that was only 41 votes short of the required 60 percent super-majority that would have passed a permanent emergency medical services levy, the Arlington City Council is currently weighing its options on what its next steps should be.

“It’s tough to lose by a margin that’s that close,” Arlington Assistant City Administrator Kristin Banfield said. “The city’s EMS program is still funded by the current levy through the end of 2011, so that gives us some leeway, but during the next couple of weeks, the [Arlington City] Council will be working on figuring out how to approach this issue.”

The city’s EMS proposition on the Nov. 2 ballot received 3,400 votes, or 59.29 percent of the vote, in favor of passing the levy, and 2,335 votes, or 40.71 percent of the vote, that were cast against the measure. Snohomish County Elections officials didn’t certify the general election results until the afternoon of Nov. 23, and the margin remained so narrow until then that at least one Arlington resident who attended one of the November City Council meetings repeated widespread rumors he’d heard that the levy had actually passed.

“We’ve all been watching and waiting for the certification, because it was so close,” Banfield said. “I imagine the next few weeks will offer a clearer view on what course of action we might take.”

Banfield noted that the Council has the option of running another EMS levy in 2011. Barbara Tolbert, who served as campaign manager for the EMS levy, deemed the proposed permanent levy a cost-saving measure, since monies that would otherwise be spent on levy elections could be channeled instead into EMS training and equipment.

An estimated 80 percent of the Arlington Fire Department’s more than 3,000 calls in 2009 were medically related. The Arlington Fire Department provides EMS not only for the city of Arlington itself, but also for the Arlington Heights, Oso, Silvana and Darrington fire districts.

If passed, the proposed EMS levy would have renewed the expiring levy, which was passed in 2004, up to 50 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value and made it permanent, with no increases.

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