Officials discuss lack of Rescue 33 news at Chillicothe City Council meeting

Marianne Gillespie TimesNewspapers

With the Nov. 6 election coming up in a few short weeks, definite plans for how the city could help an ambulance service remain in the air.

City Attorney Mike Seghetti told the Chillicothe City Council Oct. 8 not much has changed since aldermen approved placing a referendum on the ballot at the Aug. 16 special council meeting.

At that time, aldermen approved asking city residents if the city could add a line on the tax levy for “ambulance service.”

That term drew criticism from some residents that it did not specifically note Rescue 33, but city officials maintain that the money generated would be used for Rescue 33 or whatever entity is the ambulance service.

Rescue 33 currently has its license permanently suspended by the Peoria Area Emergency Medical Services system, a move which was upheld recently by a review board.

The squad can appeal the review to a state review board, and/or create a new operational plan.

The Chillicothe City Council discussed Rescue 33’s status as it relates to the referendum.

From the approval of placing the information on the ballot until now, Seghetti said Rescue 33 was focusing on its appeal.

“They really haven’t taken a lot of time to look at the issue of how they are going to, what they want to try to do moving forward, regardless of how the appeal comes out,” said Seghetti. “So we haven’t gotten much guidance back from them.”

Seghetti said that one of Rescue 33’s attorneys, Chris Cassidy, was meeting with Rescue 33’s board a couple days after the council meeting.

“He understands that we need to get some guidance from them and let people know what the plan is or let the citizens have that information when the referendum comes about,” said Seghetti.

He added that he expected to bring more information back to the council and the public.

Mayor Troy Childers Sr. also said the township officials need to think about what they will do for ambulance service as well.

He added that the money generated will be for the benefit of city residents alone.

“All we’re doing is preparing for the worst, hoping for the best. And that’s what we’re doing. There is no hidden agenda anywhere within the city of Chillicothe other than just having an ambulance service for Chillicothe,” said Childers.

Resident Judy Gajdik asked how much the city was paying Advanced Medical Transport to cover the area.

“They’ve been very gracious to stand here and help us out for a time at no cost to the city,” said Childers.

If Rescue 33 exhausts all its options, Gajdik asked what the cost would be to the city for AMT to stay.

“We haven’t really gotten into discussions with AMT because we don’t know what the status is going to be on Rescue 33 ... I think the city’s position is we want to look at Rescue 33 and look at supporting them for as long as they continue to try to stay in operation. If that isn’t the case anymore then we’d have to look at other alternatives,” said Seghetti.

Gajdik said before the referendum people need to know that one way or another, they will be paying for ambulance service.

“Everybody still thinks it’s going to be free in some way and it’s not in the cards,” said Childers.

Even if Rescue 33 gets up and running again, Childers said he expects there will be some sort of cost.

After the meeting, Childers answered questions about how funding could work if the city residents approve a referendum, but the rest of the service area does not have a current way to fund the service.

If the referendum passes, he said he envisions some sort of reduced cost per ambulance call for those within the city. He asked for residents to “put your faith in the city.”