MILTON-FREEWATER - Voters are having a hard time learning about the eight candidates vying for five board of director position on the recently formed ambulance district.
County officials say it's a situation that will likely repeat itself in the future, as the county elections office will no longer produce a local voter's pamphlet.
"Our costs of doing business goes up and up, but our budget does not," Umatilla County Elections Manager Patti Chapman said, adding that Morrow and other counties no longer produce their own voter's pamphlet.
Countywide positions, such as commissioners or prosecuting attorney, will still get listed on the state's voter pamphlet.
School bonds, city council positions and local districts, such as the ambulance district, will have to pool their efforts to find other ways to get their information to the public, Chapman said.
In the current election, local voters are deciding two issues: Will they support a 25-cent increase per thousand dollars of property assessment to pay for ambulance service? Who will serve as directors for the new Milton-Freewater Ambulance District?
"In order to be an ‘informed voter,' I am trying to find information about the eight candidates running for the five director positions for this newly formed district. So far I have been unsuccessful in that effort," Milton-Freewater resident Barbara Brown emailed the Union-Bulletin on Oct. 25.
In an interview, Brown said she was instructed by elections staff to check with local newspapers; instead she called county Commissioner Larry Givens, who helped her find out more about the candidates.
In response to a number of people calling for information, late in the week county officials scanned six of the ambulance district candidacy forms and made them accessible online, but the information on most of those forms are limited.
"We have our website to provide basic information and access to forms, but I will try to put up as much as I can for Milton-Freewater," Chapman said
To help voters make an informed decision, the Union-Bulletin sent out requests for biographical information on each candidate, and asked the candidates to reply to the following two questions:
(1) If the voters approve you as a director, but say no to the levy, what's your plan of action in regards to funding and keeping ambulance service in the area?
(2) If the voters approve the levy, what accountability safeguards will you implement when it comes to using tax levy funds appropriately?
William "Bill" F. Burwell
OCCUPATION: Manager of ag operations for Conagra/Lamb Weston/frozen foods division.
COMMUNITY SERVICE: Current volunteer firefighter and medic with Milton-Freewater Rural Fire Department, Elks Lodge member and firearm and hunters safety instructor for kids 8-18. Past president and coach for Little League association and superintendent of the Milton-Freewater Junior Show Grounds.
EDUCATION: 1969 McLoughlin High School graduate, two years U.S. Army with one year overseas.
FAMILY: Single with three children.
(1) I just think as a newly formed committee ... the five of us are just going to have to sit down and put our heads together and coordinate with the city and county and state government to see what we can come up with to have some sort of protection for the Milton-Freewater area.
(2) I think that is going to depend on the five of us siting down and putting our heads together and coming up with a plan for disbursement, and recognizing the areas that need financial attention as quick as possible. Being an EMT for the past 15 years, I now what it takes to run a first-class ambulance service for providing the best protection for the Milton-Freewater people.
OCCUPATION: Nursing student in senior year.
EDUCATION: Emergency medical technician and currently working on degree in nursing.
COMMUNITY SERVICE: Volunteer with the Milton-Freewater Rural Fire Department since 1992, becoming an EMT in 1995, ambulance volunteer for 17 years, and current captain. Youth leader for the Milton Seventh-day Adventist Church and various youth outreach projects.
FAMILY: Married with three children
(1) I have full confidence that the people of the Milton-Freewater area will vote to help fund the ambulance district. It is a vitally important service we can't live without ... If something unexpected happens then the board will need to meet immediately with the county commissioners and the city council/city manager to secure funds somehow. If it doesn't pass I believe we will lose ambulance service as no one is going to come in and provide it for free.
(2) We will use the same safeguards already used by the city and county for other contract service providers. I will continue to work on a list of requirements to be met for whatever ambulance company serves our community. I would like the board to review expectations and check if the criteria were met, at least yearly.
William "Bill" Howard III
OCCUPATION: Assistant emergency manager, Umatilla County, 1999-present.
COMMUNITY SERVICE: A 25-year member and Commander (Lt Col.) Twin W (Walla Walla) Squadron, Civil Air Patrol (volunteer Auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force); St Paul's Episcopal Church, Walla Walla, past vestry and choir member; U.S. Air Force, 1971-77.
EDUCATION: 1966 Walla Walla High School graduate; Bachelor of electrical engineering, WSU; MBA, University of Utah; Master of engineering management, WSU Tri-Cities; USAF Squadron Officer graduate.
FAMILY: Married, two children, two step-children.
(1) Without approval of the tax funding measure, the board can still call for bids to provide service. Bidders might still decide to provide service without support from tax revenues, however, it is unlikely that bidders could be found without additional revenue guarantees. Several years ago, Umatilla County put out a call for bids, but no bids were received. If the tax measure fails now, another proposed tax measure can be called for in the spring. Milton-Freewater would be in dire straits until sufficient revenue is available to support a service provider.
(2) As a member of a elected board, I would be sure these taxpayer-provided funds will be used in a very visible and open manner. Contracts with ambulance service providers would be of Public Record, and financial reports would be published as part of the board minutes. Regular audits are required of Taxing Districts by Oregon state law, and are required to be published and available for public review at the ambulance service health district office.
Jack D. King
OCCUPATION: Rancher and retired Milton-Freewater Public Works director.
COMMUNITY SERVICE: Previous historical society member and collector of older vehicles.
EDUCATION: International Correspondence School graduate, with degree in wire works and sewage works operation.
FAMILY: Married with three children.
(1) I don't think there is any other source of funding right now except what the county has given the contractor. I think that probably the only thing we could do, since we are rural, is that we would have to go to the county and solicit their help somehow and establish and ambulance interim, so people in the district would be covered, otherwise nobody would respond. I don't think that is acceptable.
(2) What I might be involved with, if elected, is that the district would have to have some rules of order and it would have to follow Oregon law on any expenditures. And that would mean to have to call for bids on services. And anything it did would have to follow the rule of law. If you follow the rule of law, then you have done things properly; that means you just don't go and hire somebody without following the law.
Gina Michelle Samaria Miller
OCCUPATION: Code enforcement officer and zoning assistant for Umatilla County
COMMUNITY SERVICE: Milton-Freewater Chamber of Commerce volunteer, Kids Playland director for the Muddy Frogwater Festival. High school aged Sunday school teacher for Christ the King Church, minor and major Little League coach, current vice-president of McLoughlin Friends of FFA Chapter, Milton-Freewater Jr. Show volunteer, and named the Jr. Citizen of the Year by the Milton-Freewater Chamber of Commerce in 2002.
EDUCATION: McLoughlin High School, graduated 1984; Pacific Lutheran University, LPN degree of nursing, 1986.
FAMILY: Married with one child.
(1) I believe we can take a very important lesson from the folks who worked so hard on getting the measure for the Milton-Freewater levee passed! The takeaway from that effort was education, education, education! It is important to educate the people we are trying to reach and who will be impacted if this measure is not passed. People in our community need to understand how they personally will be affected, and that the net cost to them is negligible when compared to the high cost of not having quality emergency medical services readily available to them.
(2) Transparency in government has become such a buzz word, but underneath that there is a fundamental truth. Government spending and the skepticism from the citizens of this country has reached an all-time high. The only way to rise above this for the ambulance service district is to document and record all meetings, and make this information available to the public. An open, honest and public forum will leave little room for doubt to enter to any and all proceedings for this service district board of directors.
Robert ‘Bob' White
COMMUNITY SERVICE: Current member M-F city planning commission and city of Milton-Freewater Fire Department.
FAMILY: Married with three children.
(1) If the voters turn down the levy the citizens of Milton-Freewater will see a very abrupt change in the ambulance they receive. With no company or origination required to give said services may be hard to find. As a member of the board of directors I would work with other board members and citizens to locate funding to support some kind of ambulance for the area.
(2) If elected to the board it would be my job to find the best ambulance service for our tax dollars not to just hand out monies to whomever may think they can give said services.
R. Shane Garner
Several attempts were made to contact Garner; no return communication was received.
Lyon declined to take part in this Union-Bulletin report.