This op-ed from Chairman Michael Basile and President Matt Ballard appeared in today’s Charleston Daily Mail.



On May 11, Kanawha County voters are being asked to make a decision that could literally could mean the difference between life or death for your family – renewing the safety levy.

The safety levy raises $14.9 million yearly for ambulance services, local police and fire departments and the KRT. Failure of the levy would result in loss of automatic response for vehicle accidents, reduced service in rural areas, a decrease in bus service and transportation for the disabled, and a longer response time for 911 calls.

It could also mean that we look to other sources of funding.
Consider the situation in Tracy, Calif., where residents now have to pay every time they call 911. According to New York Times Pulitzer-winning columnist Tom Friedman, “residents can pay a $48 voluntary fee for the year, which allows them to call 911 as many times as necessary. Or there’s the option of not signing up for the annual fee. Instead they will be charged $300 if they make a call for help.”


Is this what we want for Kanawha County?

Right now, the average Kanawha County household pays only 14 cents a day to support 22 fire departments that respond first to emergencies, ambulances that respond to 90 percent of calls within eight minutes and transport more than 200 patients every day, and buses that pick up thousands of passengers each day.

These are impressive statistics. They translate to the quickness and efficiency that often mean the difference between life and death.

To ensure that we can maintain these high-quality, life-saving services, our first responders have put out their own 911 call asking area businesses for help in ensuring passage of the levy.

We’re pleased to report that many businesses have already answered the call and are working hard to educate employees and voters about what the levy means to their families and their community.

* C&H Taxi has placed “Vote FOR Safety Levy” signs on many of its cabs

* Safety levy information appears on the jumbo electronic sign at Yeager Airport 1,500 times a day.

* Appalachian Power Park is promoting the levy through messages on its jumbo signs and special events.

* Dozens of businesses and organizations, ranging from Steptoe & Johnson, to Edgewood Summit, to the Capitol Market to Arnett & Foster are holding information sessions on the safety levy and/or inviting first responders to present safety seminars at their facilities.

We encourage you and your organization to get involved.  It’s vital to safety and it’s critical to our local economy:

* The public transportation system is an important factor businesses consider when making a decision about where to locate or expand. Twenty-one county bus routes with 2.4 million passengers per year help people get to work.

* Charleston’s reputation as a safe city is worth protecting; a high quality of life is an incentive to business.

* Emergency services provide support to local manufacturers.

* Safety is a bottom-line issue that translates into lower insurance rates and healthier, more productive employees.

What can you do to help?

* Educate your employees and/or customers about the safety levy.  The Charleston Chamber has information you can distribute or arrange for an educational presentation by first responders.

* Display safety levy signs at your place of business and at your home.

* Encourage your employees, customers, friends and neighbors to vote “FOR” the safety levy.  The levy must pass by 60 percent, so every vote counts.

* Become a “Vote FOR the Safety Levy” Facebook fan.

* Call or e-mail the Charleston Chamber to get involved:  304-340-4253; i…

The ambulance, police and fire forces are filled with men and women who make it their duty to protect our friends, families and businesses. They are there – for you – 365 days a year.

For just one day – May 11 – they’ll need your help.

Basile is chairman and Ballard is president and chief executive officer of the Charleston Regional Chamber of Commerce.


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