The Houston County Commission is expected to consider a request to add a referendum to the ballot this year that would allow voters to decide whether to add a $5 fee to vehicle registration renewals to benefit emergency medical services.

Commissioners should do so without hesitation; voters deserve the opportunity to weigh in on an increase.

Voters should then approve the measure. Many people will lose more than that in the coming year, whether they’re shortchanged at a store, inadvertently pull bills out of their pocket when retrieving something else, or dropping loose change they don’t bother to pick up.

That $5 will amount to much more for rural EMS services that have a large portion of the county to cover and not enough money to adequately fund operations.

Dothan residents don’t have to worry about those services. The city of Dothan operates its own emergency medical service through the Fire Department, and there is an ambulance service in the city. However, outside of the municipality, EMS calls are answered by volunteer fire departments and EMS teams, although municipal teams respond in some cases. Without an adequately funded rural EMS system, someone in the county with a medical emergency might suffer from a longer wait for help to arrive.

County commissioners have other options. In some parts of the country, rural emergency services are available for a subscription-like fee; residents outside municipal boundaries pay a monthly amount for access to the service. That’s likely to cost far more than an extra $5 bump on a car tag renewal.

No one likes to pay more. We get it. But in the middle of the night, when a loved one is having a heart attack or is badly injured in a vehicle crash, an annual $5 increase is money well spent.

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