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December 15, 2003

City council discusses options for ambulance squad

Monday, December 15, 2003 Posted 11:00 p.m.
A large crowd attended Monday night's city council meeting to hear a discussion on options for resolving the ambulance squad problems. Lack of volunteers has resulted in delayed responses to emergency calls. In addition, the city does not have enough money to fund a full time staff. Three options were discussed at the council meeting.

Ambulance squad leader Rob Frederick presented option A which would pay an ambulance staff oncall time at $4 per hour. This plan would have ambulance staff members paid to stay at home for calls during the day. This option should ensure that calls are responded to more timely, according to Frederick. Those on call would not be paid for a run. The cost for this option would be $51,000 a year for salaries. An additional $18,800 for expenses would bring the total cost to $69,800. This option would result in an I and an E EMT available 24 hours a day for calls.

Option B proposed by Frederick would pay oncall staff members $2 an hour but would also pay them for each run. The pay for each run would be reduced as follows: I - $35 to $24, E - $20 to $16, B - $16 to $12. This plan would cost $30,000 in wages based on an average number of runs per year plus $18,800 in expenses for a total of $49,900 per year. Frederick said that this option would be acceptable for the short run until financial conditions improve but the first option would be preferable for the long run. He said the staff is dedicated to doing whatever is needed in order to keep the ambulance service in Minonk. Both plans would involve some ambulance members giving up their jobs in order to be home and on call.

John Longman presented a plan proposed by the El Paso Emergency Squad. This plan would have the El Paso ambulance squad provide the main ambulance support for Minonk. El Paso currently has paramedics on their staff and would hire an additional fulltime paramedic to cover Minonk calls. The total cost for this service would be $118,000 per year and would provide 24 hour service. This plan would require an EMT squad in Minonk.

Longman said that El Paso taxpayers pay $188,000 a year to fund the ambulance service in El Paso. He said that El Paso has a mutual aid agreement with Minonk in which El Paso will respond to a Minonk call if no one else is available in Minonk. Longman said that El Paso has responded to more calls to Minonk than they prefer since the service is funded by El Paso, not Minonk. He said this plan would require the ambulance service for Minonk to be licensed in El Paso.

Longman said that Minonk would have the option to either answer a call or allow the call to be handled by El Paso which would give Minonk the best of both worlds. In addition, Minonk's EMT squad could serve as a Basic first responder.

Steve Barons, EMS coordinator for the Minonk district, told the council that Minonk's current ambulance squad can administer certains drugs that could not be administered by Intermediate EMT's in El Paso due to the different systems in which they are licensed. Longman said that eventually both systems will be the same.

Alderman Bill Koos said that the city has been grappling with the ambulance funding problem since 1995. Koos read a litany of reports on the ambulance squad's problems for the past several years. Koos said there is no reason why the public should not be aware of the ambulance squad crisis. He said the problem isn't money, but is people. He said there has been confusion and enuendos over the years but no action. Koos felt that we need to look at this issue without prejudice and need to deal with the facts, not the emotions. He said we need a blend of a paid full time staff and volunteers. No small town can get along with volunteers.

Koos made a motion that the city write a letter to the Illinois Department of Health, St. James Hospital, and the EMS board asking for an onsite review of the current ambulance operations, including any waivers issued. In addition, Koos made a motion that the City Administrator meet with the billing company for ambulance revenue to determine a breakdown of revenue by medicaid, insurance, and private pay. In addition, Koos wanted this action to take place by December 19. He explained that we need to give the fire department the facts before we can expect them to consider taking on the ambulance squad. The council approved his motion.

An amublance squad member asked Koos what the council was going to do about the current situation while it waits 6 months for the results of the reports. Mayor Mark Spencer responded that the council will make a decision when it feels it has enough information regardless if the reports are completed or not.

Ex City Administrator Dave Shirley told the council that the town has to change its attitude. He said too many people want an ambulance service but are not willing to donate their time. He said it is time for people in this town to get off their duff and donate their time.

Ambulance Chief Federick asked the council why they don't offer $118,000 to the Minonk ambulance squad for ambulance service instead of giving it to El Paso. He added that his staff is willing to work for less. He added that we are not doing this for the money. We are doing this because we love our work.

Mayor Mark Spencer received 2 petitions signed by Minonk residents requesting the city to keep the ambulance service in Minonk. One petition had 42 signatures and the other 27 signatures. Mayor Spencer concluded the discussion by thanking the ambulance squad for their help in preparing the options to consider. He said that we are further along and is confident a decision can be reached. He finished by making a plea for more ambulance volunteers from the community to help resolve the current crisis.

Garabage Disposal Pickup Contract

The council decided to allow the contract for garbage disposal pickup to be automatically renewed with Tomlinson Disposal. The current contract will automatically renew on March 31, 2004. The new contract can increase only by the amount of increase in landfill rates. If the council decides that the new rate charged by Tomlinson is not agreeable, the contract can be let out for bids. The current rate for disposal pickup is $7.80 per household per month. Tomlinson charges an additional $5,000 for the spring cleanup.

Westside Park Pavilion

Westside Park Pavilion Committee member Dave Uphoff told the council that the pavilion roof has been sheeted and covered with felt paper. Uphoff said that further construction on the pavilion will probably be delayed until the weather improves after the first of the year.