Board’s decision takes ambulance decision away from voters

Board’s decision takes ambulance decision away from voters

Bunker Hill Area Ambulance Service is expanding after the Macoupin County Board approved an ordinance earlier this month, though the decision was made without the consent of the property owners living within the district it will serve.

The board approved an ordinance establishing a special service area for the ambulance service which will serve the Bunker Hill School District, excluding the portions in Madison County.

“I really think it should be the voice of the people, not of a few,” said county board member Robert “Tony” Wiggins, who was one of eight board members to vote against the ordinance. Others joining Wiggins were Todd Armour, Raymond “Beaver” Coatney, Bernie Kiel, Shielda Lewis, Frank Long, Harry Starr IV and Mike Tranter.

Voting for the ordinance, which needed just a simple majority, was board chairman Mark Dragovich, plus board members Bill Harding, Ruth Ann Pomatto, Robert Quarton, Ollie Schwallenstecker, David Thomas, Robert Vojas, Julia Watson, Francis Wieseman and Jim Zirkelbach.

Supporters as well as those opposing the measure were both in attendance Aug. 12. “Hope you guys make it home tonight,” Wiggins recalls saying to a fellow board member. “There’s a lot of furious people here.”

Macoupin County Clerk Pete Duncan said there were 2,894 registered voters in the district at last count. In addition to Bunker Hill, the area also serves Woodburn, Royal Lakes and the surrounding rural areas.

In addition to county board approval, the BHAAS Board of Directors also needed written permission from local municipalities, including the city of Bunker Hill and village of Royal Lakes.

Mark Vaughn, the president of the Bunker Hill Area Ambulance Service Board of Directors first contacted Macoupin County officials in January 2013 about establishing a special tax levy for the “furtherance and operations of the Bunker Hill Area Ambulance Service.”

Taxes levies in the district after the ordinance approval will be increased a maximum of 27 cents per $100.

A second ordinance, which would have put the measure on the November ballot as a referendum, was tabled at the Aug. 12 meeting after the first ordinance was narrowly approved by the board.

By Daniel Winningham