In 2018, San Juan County Public Hospital District #1 (“PHD”), San Juan County Fire Protection District #3 (“FD3”), and the Town of Friday Harbor (“TFH”), commissioned a Citizen’s Advisory Group (“CAG”) to study the advisability and feasibility of integrating San Juan Island Emergency Medical Services (“EMS”) with San Juan Island Fire & Rescue.
The CAG spent a year researching this question and submitted a report, with recommendations, to the PHD, FD3 and TFH on April 2, 2019. We concluded that EMS services in our community would be improved by integrating with Fire & Rescue. Cross-trained emergency service providers, responding from the station where appropriate equipment is housed, would reduce response times, improve outcomes, and reduce costs. Islanders have subsequently voted to annex the Town of Friday Harbor into FD3, aligning EMS and FD3 boundaries. Then, in November 2021, FD3 ran a levy to fund the merged Fire and EMS agency. Because that levy was considered a new tax, passage required 60% approval. While a majority (56%) approved the measure, it was just short of the supermajority requirement.
Rather than supporting a similar merger levy, the PHD backed out of its written agreement with FD3 to merge the agencies and is running a continuation levy for EMS that requires only 50% approval. As CAG members, we are greatly disappointed that it has taken so long to implement our recommendations. EMS integration with Fire & Rescue is now more important than ever. We therefore urge voters to vote No on the PHD’s EMS levy on February 8, and instead pass a new levy in the next few months to merge Fire and EMS.
Submitted by the following members of the Citizens Advisory Group: