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Fire district discusses taking on ambulance squad

Wednesday, December 10, 2003 Posted 10:00 p.m.
Minonk city officials presented options for the Minonk Ambulance Squad to the trustees of the Minonk Fire Protection District Wednesday night at City Hall. Mayor Mark Spencer said one of the options the City has been considering is having the fire district assume the responsibilities of the ambulance squad. Spencer said this is not necessarily the preferred option but is one to be considered.

City Administrator Trent Smith told the trustees that the fire district has a broader tax base that the City of Minonk and also has a greater taxing capacity. The city is limited to 25 cents while the fire district can go as high as 30 cents. Therefore, the fire district will be more able to afford the hiring of a full time staff. Smith said the City cannot afford to pay a full time staff. He said, however, that a full time staff is needed to cut down the response time on calls. The current volunteer staff has full time jobs and cannot respond as quickly as a permanent staff.

Smith said to pay for a full time staff would cost $182,000 a year. He said another option is to have the fire district contract out the ambulance squad to El Paso's ambulance squad for $111,500. El Paso would provide a full time person to Minonk. Smith added that the ambulance squad revenue, which includes tax revenue and billing, is $100,000 a year which means $82,400 would be required of the City to cover the remaining expenses. The fire district could bring in $93,000 a year in tax revenue which is $45,000 more than the city's revenue which means that the deficit would be cut to $37,400.

Smith said that the ambulance squad currently makes over 270 runs a year which is a lot for a volunteer ambulance squad. Fire trustee Jerry Welch said that the City has been hiring part-time policeman this year which he felt are not as important as the ambulance workers. He said that the ambulance squad has given a lot of their time and he can't see washing them down the tubes.

Ambulance Squad Chief Rob Frederick said that the squad will offer to perform as a full time staff for $51,000. He said operating costs would bring the total cost to around $80,000 a year. Frederick added that patient billing is around $65,000 which would mean that the city or fire district would have to cover a deficit of $15,000. He said that the squad would have one intermediate and one basic on call for each of 3 shifts around the clock. Frederick said that the squad is willing to work within the fire district as long as it remains in Minonk.

One ambulance squad member said that if the ambulance squad services are contracted out to El Paso, the response time would be longer since they are at least 10 minutes further away than a local staff. In addition, they may be on another call.

Fire trustee Joe Schmillen said that he thinks it will be necessary to have a referendum to see if the people want to combine the ambulance squad with the fire department. A tax levy increase will be needed to provide the extra revenue.

Volunteer fireman John Durre said that Minonk has lost a hardware store, drug store, and a bakery. He said we can't afford to lose the ambulance squad too. Volunteer fireman Dick Meierhofer agreed saying that if we lose the ambulance service we may as well starting putting up FOR SALE signs in our front yards. Ambulance Squad Chief Frederick said that if we contract the ambulance service to El Paso, then El Paso will get our tax money instead of Minonk.

Fire trustee David Timmerman said that the city council, township, and fire trustees should get together to try to come up with some joint solution. Fire trustee Schmillen concluded the meeting by saying he is confident that we can keep the ambulance squad in Minonk.

The Minonk City Council will be discussing the ambulance squad options at its next meeting, Monday, December 15.