EDGAR COUNTY, Ill. (WCIA) — The Ross Township board wants to take its time to decide whether or not to raise property taxes and keep an ambulance service from shutting down.
The Northern Edgar County Ambulance Service (NECAS) says they don’t have the time or money to wait. It only has enough money to stay open until July next year. The proposed solution was to create a special taxing district for the six townships they serve. All were in agreement, but Ross Township board wasn’t on board.
The Ross Township meeting was left open ended Thursday night. The ambulance company only has about 60 thousand dollars to operate in the bank and that won’t last long. The deadline for the special service area has passed. So now they’re facing a new challenge of coming up with another plan.
Jeremy Neal, paramedic NECAS says, “If there’s no funding, there isn’t going to be an ambulance service in this part of the county. His job could be in jeopardy. On average the ambulance service goes on about 500 calls per year. It brings in about $220,000 and cost about $450,000 to operate. It’s not generating enough money to make up the difference.
They serve 3,500 people between the six townships and three towns they cover. The ambulance department suggested creating a special service area in time to receive tax payments in 2020. That would pay for the cost of the ambulance service. Property taxes would be raised by .2%
The Ross Township board turned that idea down and the deadline to apply passed. At Thursday’s meeting the township supervisor said, “We want to help you get this through. But it is our job to represent the residents of this township.” The board wanted to give people the chance to vote on whether or not to raise taxes.
There’s limited time until the ambulance company runs out of money so the clock is ticking to decide on a different plan. If this ambulance company shuts down, the areas they cover would have to contract out to others cities further away.
Kathy Lientz with Pleasant Meadows Senior Living spoke at the Ross Township meeting to share her concern. She said, “It would be catastrophic if we did not have an ambulance service in town. I’ve personally sat on the floor with a 90 year old resident who fell. In the very short amount of time it takes for the Chrisman ambulance to get there it seems like an eternity. For us to wait 20 minutes longer would be catastrophic.”
While everybody at the meeting agreed the ambulance service is valuable, the question of how to pay for it remains undetermined.
Since the deadline for the special service area agreement passed, the townships have another option to consider raising the tax levy in each area to pay for the ambulance service. No telling when a decision could be made on that.
Northern Edgar County Ambulance Service has been open since 1982. It started as a volunteer department but in the last few years volunteers became scarce. The reason they need more money now is because they have to pay more staff.