Serving Franklin County, WA

Funding allocated for North Franklin emergency services

$1.5 million grant awarded for purchase of ambulances, equipment

ELTOPIA — Franklin County Public Hospital District No. 1's emergency services will receive a $1.5 million grant from American Rescue Plan Act funds.

Franklin County commissioners learned about the grant status during their July 5 meeting.

The funds come out of the $18,495,757 in ARPA funds the county accepted in 2021 as part of the federal COVID-19 relief program.

The hospital district encompasses about 715 square-miles, serving around 12,500 people in northern Franklin County.

With four active stations – Wahluke, Merrill's Corner, Connell and Basin City – seven ambulances and about 50 volunteers, the emergency service of the district answer 714 calls last year, officials said, noting it operates independently from the county's fire districts and does not receive funding as robustly as most EMS services in the county.

After years of balancing on a fine line between fiscal responsibility and public safety, Commissioner Lori Hayles heard of the ARPA funds at county commission meetings, she said. Working through different county officials, the district's emergency services board drafted a request to support the stations.

After being awarded the funds, Hayles came before county commissioners July 11 to express tear-filled gratitude for the opportunity to update equipment and fund the safety of the "over half of Franklin County.".

The funds will be used to purchase ambulances, auto load stretcher systems, LifePaks and potentially an extrication vehicle.

"Some of our ambulances are around 20 years old," Hayles said, noting the average cost for ambulances has risen to more than $400,000 in the last year.

Hayles, who started as a volunteer EMT at 25 years old, remembers when area residents could not call 911 for emergencies.

They had to call a separate dispatch number that was then connected to a party line, a local looped telephone, that would then be answered, she said.

This call came in on a "bright red rotary-dial telephone," Hayles said.

Hayles referred to both the funds and improvements as "heaven-sent."

She was excited at the chance to finally subsidize northern Franklin County's safety through updated equipment and exceptional volunteer service.

"I am an EMT and that is where my heart is," Hayles said.


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