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Chillicothe Times-Bulletin - Chillicothe, IL
  • Rescue 33's plan does not include tax money

  • While not showing its cards, Rescue 33 officials say the ambulance squad's plans to get back into service does not include tax money.
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  • While not showing its cards, Rescue 33 officials say the ambulance squad's plans to get back into service does not include tax money.
    "Our projections show that our planned sources will support Ambulance Rescue 33, LTD without the need for a city property tax," said Ron Hedden through a press release.
    "Should this prove incorrect, it is part of our plan to attempt to establish an ambulance district which would fairly tax the entire coverage area and not just the city of Chillicothe. Therefore, we would like to sincerely thank the city of Chillicothe for its attempt to save Rescue 33, but we do not support the current tax referendum."
    Some residents who participated in early voting already cast a vote on the referendum, which asked if city officials could add a "ambulance service" line on its tax levy of up to .25 percent.
    Timing is a key issue in the process.
    Ambulance Rescue 33, which has served the Chillicothe area for more than 40 years, had its license permanently suspended Sept. 4, mainly due to scheduling issues and response times. The part volunteer, part paid squad still made calls before its suspension for free. The squad lost its first appeal of the suspension.
    With no backup plan in place as far as funding an ambulance provider, city officials held a special meeting, narrowly missing the deadline, to get the tax referendum on the Nov. 6 ballot.
    Rescue 33 appealed the suspension of its license, but the decision was upheld a few weeks ago.
    As the squad has worked through the system, few details have been released to the public due to the "nature of the process."
    Squad officials are currently working on a plan to get Rescue 33 operating again, and Hedden said while there is no time frame, he expects it will be months, not years.
    "There's an awful lot involved in it. We will evolve into a stronger Rescue 33 ambulance squad," Hedden said.
    Rescue 33 officials plan to re-establish the squad under its current not-for-profit status and have an independent board of directors comprised of residents with varying expertise from the service area. The members will not be employees of Rescue 33.
    Employees will be on site and paid to be ready for call 24 hours per day, seven days a week.
    Because Rescue 33 officials want to begin responding to calls as soon as possible, plans call for operations to begin at the basic level as they operated previously.
    "However, the long term goal is to obtain and acquire training and personnel to upgrade to the highest level of care possible," Hedden said through a press release.
    The changes mean more dollars are needed for the service, which the squad plans to come from four sources — current fundraisers of Donut Days, Claud-Elen Days and Bailey's (Labor Day) Breakfast; donations and memorials; billing; and memberships.
    Page 2 of 2 - Hedden would not give dollar figures for the billing or memberships yet, but said billing will be itemized to ensure payment from Medicare, insurance, etc.
    The billing, or some sort of charge per call, will be new for the area.
    "By today's standard, that is acceptable. Free is not. To be fair, we will have to provide bills," said Hedden.
    In the meantime, Advanced Medical Transport of Central Illinois is covering Rescue 33's service area.
    Though Rescue 33 is not lending its approval of the city's referendum, Mayor Troy Childers Sr. said he still finds merit for the referendum.
    "That's great," Childers said of the Rescue 33's current plan. "If they feel that they can do what they haven't been able to do in the past, that's fine."
    He said his concern is that the squad, or another provider if Rescue 33 cannot get a license, may not want to provide the service if they cannot cover their expenses, leaving the city, as well as the outlying areas, without ambulance service.
    "The problem with ambulance service in town is that with 1,200 calls, and 85 percent of them dropped off, that's a pretty good indicator that people were taking advantage of Rescue 33," said Childers.
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