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      Cole Co. residents could pay for ambulance services

      For the second time in a week, Cole County residents are hearing about the possibility of raising taxes to keep ambulances running. The idea came up at the Jefferson City council on Monday and a new proposal emerged Thursday at the Cole County Commission.

      The newest idea comes in the form of a countywide half-cent sales tax increase. Supporters say the tax increase would shift the burden of the ambulance operating expenses to the taxpayers.

      Half of the increase would fund ambulance service, which would still be contracted through Capital Region Medical Center. The other half would reduce property taxes.

      Supporters say the sales tax increase would be a secure funding stream that would never go away.

      "When we have ambulance service, we offer ambulance service to anybody who needs an ambulance in the county, said Marc Ellinger, Cole County Commissioner. We don't look where they live, we don TMt ask why they're here, if they need our help, we send an ambulance. And I think a sales tax more reflects that service, anybody who needs it, gets it."

      Jefferson City Mayor John Landwher was at Thursday's meeting, but refused to comment on the idea of a sales tax. Earlier in the week, he was advocating the idea of a five-cent property tax levy to fund the project.

      Capitol region officials issued this statement Thursday afternoon, saying, "The tax issue is really the voters decision. Our goal is to support the communities we serve by delivering the highest level of EMS services. We will continue to serve the whole county and hope that community leaders come to a decision soon."

      They also said that regardless of what the voters decide, ambulance service in Cole County would not be disrupted.

      If all the members of the commission agree on the resolution, the issue could go before voters on the November ballot.

      If you have concerns or ideas, the Cole County Commission wants to hear them. There will be two public hearings on the sales tax increase proposal.

      The first is Tuesday August 19th at 5:30 pm in the commission chambers, which is in the building next to the Cole County Courthouse, and the second public hearing will be Monday August 25 at the same location.