Montgomery County voters rejected ambulance fees in a 2010 referendum, but Tuesday the County Council voted 6-to-3 to again pass the fee despite strong objections from the 19 volunteer fire departments that serve the county.
"I'm shocked,” said Eric Bernard, of the Montgomery County Volunteer Fire Department. “I can’t believe that in this day and age in Montgomery County that our council would go against what the county voters voted against just 17 months ago."
The ambulance fee takes effect in January, giving opponents a chance to once again petition to challenge the fee on the ballot.
"If you wait one minute if you're having a heart attack to determine if you should call an ambulance you can die," Montgomery County Volunteer Fire Department President Marcine Goodloe said.
The ambulance fee will generate $14 million for Montgomery County, money that is directed to provide more public safety services apparatus and equipment.
"For Montgomery County residents this is not a fee,” Montgomery County Fire Department Chief Richie Bowers said. “This is not a tax. This is simply an insurance reimbursement that permits the county government to ask the insurance companies for funds that residents have already paid for."
"We're acting on behalf of taxpayers who are footing the bill for this anyway, and it doesn't have to be that way because there's already money in everybody's insurance accounts to pay for transport to and from hospitals in an ambulance," said Council member Valerie Ervin, D-Silver Spring, who opposed the fee two years ago but voted in favor of it Tuesday.