If Chillicotheans are wanting their opinions known on who should be their ambulance provider, the time is approaching.
Progress in getting Ambulance Rescue 33 Ltd. up and running again has been made as the squad has submitted its plan for reinstatement with the Peoria Area Emergency Services System.
The squad's first new plan was submitted in November, and after making corrections, Rescue 33 President Ron Hedden said they were just about to hand in their plan when Andrew Rand of Advanced Medical Transport of Central Illinois announced it was seeking to become the permanent provider of the area.
AMT has been covering the area when Rescue 33's license was pulled in September, mainly for scheduling problems and slow response times.
Since both Ambulance Rescue 33 and AMT are seeking to serve the community, PAEMS has requested a recommendation from the city of Chillicothe on its preferred service.
"It comes as a surprise to us," said Mayor Troy Childers Sr. "We haven't gotten any letters from Dr. (Cheryl) Colbenson" (medical director of the PAEMS).
"We really can't make a recommendation on either of them until they both make a proposal," said Childers.
The mayor said he expects that both providers will offer forums about what they offer. He said he will propose to the Chillicothe City Council that a public forum be held for city officials to hear area residents' comments. He then said he hopes the council would make a decision at its last meeting in February.
Already set is Rescue 33's public forum, similar to one held at the Tea Party Patriots meeting last year, at 6:30 p.m. Jan. 17 in the banquet room at Three Sisters Park.
"I think the community needs to tell us who they want to have. There is a big difference, frankly," said Childers.
With more than 40 years serving the Chillicothe area, Rescue 33 offers a basic life support service whereas AMT offers the highest support at paramedic level.
While Rescue 33 previously was a free service, it will have to charge if it receives a new license, but Hedden said the squad plans to bill as cheaply as possible. An exact amount is unknown, but all bills will be itemized for the base ambulance call, oxygen use, mileage, use of AEDs, etc. He estimates an average bill could be $500. Most likely the squad would hire a billing company, he said.
AMT, a not-for-profit service provider, also charges for its services and works with billing its clients. The service, established in 1991, covers Peoria, Pekin and other areas.
Petitions supporting Rescue 33 as the preferred provider recently began circulating.
"The purpose of them is to let government officials know that the community is still behind us," said Hedden.
They can be found at most gas stations in the area, the front door of the ambulance garage and some businesses.
Residents are asked that if they sign their name to a petition, they include in what township they reside. Rescue 33 officials want to have the petitions back by Jan. 11.
Hedden plans to talk to officials of its previous service area, which would remain the same — Chillicothe, Hallock, LaPrairie and Steuben townships and Hopewell.
Until a preferred provider is chosen, Hedden said, Rescue 33's new plan cannot be reviewed, and AMT's request to be the permanent provider of the area cannot be either.
Rescue 33 officials had previously hoped to be running again in February, but due to this decision process, Hedden said it will take them an extra two months if chosen as the preferred provider.