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May 04, 2010 3:21 am

AMEND CORNER: What I read in the paper

Written by Tribune Staff

An item we published last week caught my eye, and I thought it deserved a bit of commentary from somebody who has observed government and politics for about half a century — me.

The item that piqued my interest was a letter to the editor decrying the intention of Powell's EMS service to apply for state money to purchase a new ambulance. In the writer's opinion, Powell Valley Healthcare should take up a collection so we can buy our own ambulance, rather than applying for state money. The writer apparently thinks this will help alleviate the federal deficit. After all, it would only cost each of us $11.17.

OK, now, I know a lot of people around here believe Powell is some sort of special enclave that somehow survives entirely on its own. That is not true, never has been true, and never will be true.

In fact, Powell is part of an entity called the state of Wyoming, which derives a pretty fair share of its revenue by taxing the state's mineral wealth. That money belongs to Powell as much as it belongs to Cheyenne, Gillette, Casper or Green River, and it has been appropriated our state Legislature to fund any number of similar needs in the state.

That money will be awarded to some government entity in the state. If it doesn't buy an ambulance for Powell, it will do something else — fill potholes on somebody's streets, buy a garbage truck for some other town or fill any one of a number of needs in the state's communities.

However it is spent, it will not create any more debt for our children, because Wyoming has no government debt, and if it is not spent, it will do absolutely nothing to reduce the federal deficit or our taxes.

Moreover, the ambulance in question will not serve Powell exclusively. Powell EMS answers calls far beyond the limits of Powell. It often responds to accidents along Wyoming 32 in Big Horn County, and, in the event of a major emergency, could be called to help out in Cody, Lovell, Red Lodge or beyond.

It also will serve people who choose not to send in their $11.17 — not one of whom is going to turn down an ambulance ride if he really needs one — and I suspect there will be a bunch of those people who will argue that the old ambulance was good enough for grandpa, so it's good enough for them. People who go bananas at the thought of a 1-cent sales tax increase aren't likely to voluntarily send in a check to the city of Powell.

In short, it's like expecting the Army to pass the plate to buy a Bradley fighting vehicle.