- Associated Press - Monday, January 20, 2014

LULING, La. (AP) - St. Charles Parish Hospital is seeking voter approval to renew a $2.6 million property tax mostly dedicated to operating the parish’s ambulance service and the Luling hospital’s emergency room.

The Times-Picayune reports (http://bit.ly/1a45QZN) the Parish Council has scheduled the referendum May 3.

The 2.48-mill tax would be extended for 10 years. It would cost about $18.60 a year for owners of owner-occupied houses valued at $150,000.

Hospital chief executive officer Federico Martinez said the tax is critical to EMS and hospital operations.

During a recent presentation to the council, Martinez said revenue from the tax has allowed the hospital to buy three new ambulances and upgrade the technology in its eight emergency vehicles.

The new equipment includes portable defibrillators and advanced hydraulic lifts for the stretchers in five ambulances.

In addition, the hospital recently acquired a laboratory that lets employees conduct more tests in-house and get the results back to doctors faster.

If the tax is renewed, the hospital plans to add another ambulance on weekday, Martinez said.

Currently, the hospital stations paramedics around the clock at two ambulance stations, one on each side of the Mississippi River. A third ambulance is added during special events such as football games and festivals, he said.

Martinez said the hospital receives 430 calls per month. A third ambulance would help reduce the average response time, which is currently just under 10 minutes, he said.

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Information from: The Times-Picayune, http://www.nola.com

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