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Arlington City Council unanimously supports proposed EMS levy

ARLINGTON — The Arlington City Council not only unanimously adopted a resolution supporting the establishment of a permanent emergency medical services levy, but also amended it to stipulate that the levy would not represent an additional tax on the city's citizens.

The City Council members wound up offering the only opinions voiced after they opened the floor to public comment during their April 4 meeting, which Arlington Mayor Pro Tem Steve Baker led off by reporting that he'd heard from a number of citizens who believed that the proposed levy did represent an additional tax.

"People who live in Arlington Heights have said to me, 'Well, we've got out own EMS,'" Baker said. "That's just for basic life support, though. Anything beyond that, and it's coming from Arlington."

The Arlington Fire Department provides EMS not only to the city of Arlington itself, but also to the Arlington Heights, Oso, Silvana and Darrington fire districts.

Fellow Council member Linda Byrnes cited the EMS responses that she personally witnessed during her 12 years as superintendent of the Arlington School District as evidence of the value of those personnel's services.

"We had a staff member who had a heart attack, and kids who were hit by cars, who would not have made it without those EMS personnel," Byrnes said. "Theirs is a service without price."

Council member Scott Solla praised the community outreach that's been conducted so far on behalf of the levy, including that being done by Arlington Fire Chief Bruce Stedman, while Council member Sally Lien, who moved to adopt the resolution, echoed Byrnes' accounts with what she's witnessed at her own place of residence.

"I live in a building with many healthy older citizens, and our EMS guys have been there many times," Lien said. "They're like an emergency room on wheels."

Ballots for this year's special election must be returned by mail no later than April 26.

The current EMS levy is set to expire on Dec. 31, and the proposed permanent EMS levy on the special election ballot would constitute a continuation of the current tax assessment rate, rather than a new tax assessment.

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