You might think that after more than 50 years, valley residents don’t need reminding of how valuable Aero Methow Rescue Service is to the large community it serves.
But every 10 years, Aero Methow mounts a campaign, telling its story in support of the Methow Valley Emergency Medical Services District levy that is vital to the nonprofit organization which provides ambulance service and so much more.
Aero Methow facts & figures
• 24/7 advanced life support care
• Main office and response facility in Twisp; stations in Winthrop and Mazama
• 5 ambulances (3 in Twisp, 1 in Winthrop, 1 in Mazama)
• 6 quick response aid vehicles located throughout the valley; 1 UTV with wheels and tracks for off-road all-season response; 2 E-bikes for trail and off-road quick response; 2 snowmobiles.
• 741 emergency responses in 2021, 85% for Methow Valley residents
It’s not a new tax. The levy, which is set at 50 cents per $1,000 of valuation and doesn’t change, is up for renewal every 10 years for most of the district’s residents. This year, the levy renewal request will share the Nov. 8 general election ballot with all the political races that may be drawing more attention.
Property taxes collected from the levy — which, for instance, would amount to $250 annually for a home valued at $500,000 — support about half of Aero Methow’s operating expenses in a typical year, according to Cindy Button, Aero Methow’s director of services and daughter of Aero Methow’s founder.
The Methow Valley Emergency Medical Services District contracts with Aero Methow to provide ambulance and other first-provider services. The Okanogan County commissioners also serve as the board of commissioners for the district, which was formed in 1991 and includes residents within the boundaries of the Methow Valley School District. Town of Winthrop residents will vote in the Nov. 8 election. Because Twisp opted for six-year election cycles rather than 10 years, residents of the that town will vote for renewal in 2025 (the levy remains in effect in Twisp in the meantime).
While Aero Methow’s funding sources vary from year to year, the medical services district is by far its largest revenue provider. Other income is generated from transport fees, other contracts (such as with the U.S. Forest Service or state Department of Natural Resources; or Okanogan County Public Health as needed for pandemic response); grants, and private donations — which have paid for much of Aero Methow’s equipment.
Button noted that while Aero Methow partners and coordinates with Okanogan County Fire District 6 on some programs and services, the organizations are operationally separate from each other.
Aero Methow does not bill for most of its services except ambulance transports, so many of its local responses to 911 calls are funded by the levy proceeds.
A short history
Dr. William Henry, Button’s father, started a medical practice in Twisp in 1960 that became the Twisp Medial Center (now the home of Family Health Centers’ Twisp clinic). Seeing the need for emergency services in the valley, in conjunction with member of the Loup Loup ski patrol he launched Aero Methow in 1968 with a converted Chevy Suburban for an ambulance. For several years, Aero Methow operated under the auspices of Methow Valley Home Health Agency, a nonprofit.
Button started with Aero Methow in 1984. After her father retired, his practice was sold and Aero Methow had to vacate the building on West Second Avenue.
“We were homeless and penniless,” Button said. After several alternatives were considered, formation of the emergency services district was chosen as the best long-term alternative to support Aero Methow. The organization has been growing ever since, adding staff, equipment and volunteers and finally settling into its headquarters on Highway 20 in Twisp in 2005 after a couple of relocations.
While Aero Methow has a professional staff (eight full-time, six part-time), it also relies heavily on a cadre of more than two dozen trained community volunteers who take on-call shifts.
Button pointed out that “we’re more than an ambulance service.” Aero Methow also provides annual car seat installation and safety checks; coordinates patient care with local health care providers; offers fitness programs for seniors; conducts classes in CPR, AED and first aid; co-sponsors the annual Bike Rodeo; and partners with Okanogan County Search and Rescue for extreme responses. And that ambulance on standby at school sports events, and other community activities — it’s from Aero Methow.
Button said it’s not uncommon for people to call with health care questions. Aero Methow will offer support and referrals as appropriate. Aero Methow also responds to non-emergency calls such as patient welfare checks, medical alert alarms and lift assists
“We don’t want people to hesitate to call us,” Button said.
For more information, visit https://www.aeromethow.org/tax-levy.