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Referendum could bring relief to short-staffed Washburn EMS

Referendum could bring relief to short-staffed Washburn EMS
Published: Mar. 22, 2022 at 4:52 PM CDT
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WASHBURN, WI -- A new public safety referendum in Washburn could bring big changes to the city’s public safety offices.

The referendum would increase the property tax levy by $1.84 per $1000 of property value, bringing in an extra $200,000 per year.

That money would go directly into the city’s public safety.

“The money would be used to hire two full-time EMTs for the Washburn ambulance service,” said Scott Kluver.

“A portion of the funds would [also] be used to increase wages for the police department.”

According to Mayor Mary Motiff, police in the city currently make the lowest wages in the area by roughly $3.00 an hour.

The money raised through the referendum would help the city raise wages by $2.75 an hour to make them more competitive.

The two new EMTs would also be the first full-time staff in city history, as the department currently operates with volunteers.

Throughout the pandemic, many volunteers have stopped working due to personal reasons, cutting staff even further.

“We have had approximately 10 People that have been pulling the wagon for quite some time, for almost two and a half years now. So they’re getting tired, and we need some relief,” said Jeff Bellile, Director of EMS services in Washburn.

Bellile says even with dedicated volunteers, staff often finds they can’t respond to calls as quickly or efficiently as they’d like to.

“It’s very difficult when you’ve only got three or four people in town that can answer a page during the day. We rely on the surrounding area for mutual aid, which would be Ashland or Bayfield,” he said.

Motiff says the referendum might cost taxpayers a bit of money but would benefit the community in the long run.

“You may not always think about when you might need an ambulance, but you just never know when that’s gonna happen,” she said.

The referendum will be on the ballot in Washburn in the upcoming election in April.

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