Organizers are gathering signatures to form the first ambulance district in Stutsman County, according to Brian Rau, a volunteer with the Medina Ambulance Service and one of the organizers of the petition drive.

"We think there is good support for the district," he said. "We just have to do our part and get the signatures."

The petition drive will require 290 signatures or 20% of the eligible voters who live in the proposed Medina Ambulance District. Signed petitions need to be submitted to the Stutsman County auditor's office before the end of August. If the petition drive is successful, the question will be placed on the Nov. 3 general election ballot.

If passed, the new ambulance district will include the cities of Medina, Woodworth and Cleveland and all of the townships of Bloomenfield, Chase Lake, Chicago, Flint, Iosco, Marstenmoor, Newbury, Peterson, St Paul, Stirton, Strong, Valley Springs and Weld. Portions of Gerber, Moon Lake, Paris, Roosevelt, Wadsworth and Windsor townships are also included in the district which makes up a total of 570 square miles.

Only voting residents of the proposed ambulance district are allowed to sign the petition.

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The new district, if passed, would have the authority to levy up to 10 mills in property tax although the vote will be too late to implement the tax for the upcoming property tax year, according to Nicole Meland, Stutsman County auditor and chief operating officer.

"We anticipate levying the 10 mills," Rau said. "That would provide between $90,000 and $100,000 per year in revenue."

A levy of 10 mills would cost taxpayers $45 for every $100,000 in residential property value and $50 per every $100,000 in commercial or agricultural property values.

In September 2019, the Medina Ambulance Service announced it was considering disbanding. A shortage of volunteers was making it difficult to maintain around-the-clock staffing with emergency personnel. Rau said since that time, the ambulance service has supplemented its volunteer staff with paid emergency responders.

"That has been working for staffing," he said. "We had been getting state grants for staffing but we're concerned that may end with the state funding issues we're hearing about."

Jerry Bergquist, Stutsman County emergency manager and 911 coordinator, said maintaining an ambulance service in Medina is vital to the county.

"They are the western anchor for medical services in the western part of the county," he said. "They are a vital part of emergency services."

Rau estimates the Medina Ambulance service responds to between 60 and 100 calls per year. The calls range from multi-vehicle accidents on Interstate 94 to local residents with health emergencies. Patients are usually transported to Jamestown for care.

Bergquist said the taxing district is the best way he is aware of to provide long-term financial stability to the Medina Ambulance Service.

"If it passes, we're a year away from receiving the funds," Rau said. "We have some funds available and we'll diligently watch the budget and will be fine. If it is delayed an election cycle, well, I don't know then."