Reading Fire Protection District says it can’t afford Streator’s ambulance service but options are limited

Treasurer plans to address Streator’s council Wednesday

Reading Fire Protection District Treasurer Tom Metzke (left) talks Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2022, about the finances of a possible intergovernmental agreement with the city of Streator for emergency ambulance service.

As the offer stood Tuesday, the Reading Fire Protection District trustees said the district can’t afford to enter into an intergovernmental agreement with Streator for emergency ambulance service.

The intergovernmental agreement proposes Reading pay $485 per call for Streator’s newly-launched ambulance service beginning Oct. 1, including possible add-on fees for if the Streator Fire Department’s assistance is needed.

In 2021, Advanced Medical Transport, the current emergency ambulance provider, responded to 368 Reading calls, meaning if the district’s calls stayed on average, it could expect a bill somewhere in the ballpark of $178,480.

In 2021, the Reading Fire Protection District received $76,000 total from taxes levied, meaning it would need to more than double its tax revenue to make a payment to Streator. The district is unable to do so without a referendum and the soonest it can put a referendum on the ballot is April.

“Even if a referendum passes, and there’s no guarantees it will, the earliest we would see new revenue is summer of 2024,” said Tom Metzke, treasurer of the fire protection district, at a special meeting Tuesday at the volunteer fire station in South Streator.

Reading Township Volunteer Fire Department

Streator City Manager David Plyman said a deal can be worked out for the Reading fire district to pay back the city after a referendum passes, but fire protection district trustees, and residents in attendance Tuesday, expressed concern about compiling a large debt on top of having to pay hundreds of thousands for services.

Metzke said he plans to attend the Streator City Council meeting at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 21, at Streator City Hall, 204 S. Bloomington St. to present the fire protection’s situation to Streator council members.

“Even if we wanted to, we couldn’t pay for the agreement as it stands,” Metzke said.

The Long Point Fire Protection District figures to enter into an intergovernmental agreement with the city of Streator for emergency ambulance services for the same rate of $485 per call, but Cornell will enter into an agreement with Pontiac, and Allen Township (Ransom) with Dwight for 911 ambulance calls.

Metzke said Reading is the second lowest taxed fire protection district in Livingston County, while Long Point’s tax levy is much higher. Reading has not asked for an increase to its levy since it was established, trustees said. Long Point also had 32 ambulance calls in 2021 to Reading’s 368.

Plyman said he modeled the $485 rate after what Cornell will pay Pontiac. Reading trustees and residents said the rate isn’t fair, because Pontiac will travel farther to service Cornell than Streator will for Reading, which is mostly an adjacent district to Streator. Plyman has said Streator provides the manpower for the call volume, which is why the rate was proposed.

Reading trustees said they don’t have many viable options, but the district could look into providing its own service if a referendum passes.

Reading Township’s government, which is separate entity than the fire protection district, is exploring whether it can contribute legally to pay for the ambulance service. If so, that could open the door for other townships, such as Otter Creek, Eagle, Bruce and Newtown also to provide assistance.

Residents at Tuesday’s meeting asked what they will do Oct. 1 if an emergency ambulance agreement isn’t reached with Streator or a neighboring district. AMT plans to cease its operations in the Streator area.

“Call 911,” Metzke said. “We’ll respond.”

Reading volunteer firefighters respond to all medical calls, but they are unable to transport residents. If a transport is needed, an ambulance will be called from a neighboring district, but it may take up to a half hour to an hour, depending on where it’s coming from. Reading trustees also said they don’t want their district to become a burden on others, because that’s an ambulance taken away from that district.

The fire protection district plans to update residents on the status of the emergency ambulance service on its Facebook page after speaking to the Streator council on Wednesday night. Reading residents can attend the public meeting.

Reading Fire Protection District Treasurer Tom Metzke (left) presents to his fellow board members and the public Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2022, the district's options for emergency ambulance service.
Reading Volunteer Fire Department