Streator, Reading will continue talks on 911 ambulance service deal

Both sides at a standstill as Reading says it can’t afford offer; Streator says it doesn’t want to be unfair to its property taxpayers

Reading Fire Protection District Treasurer Tom Metzke addresses the Streator City Council on Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2022, telling members the fire protection district can't afford the intergovernmental agreement proposed for emergency ambulance service as it stands.

Streator Mayor Tara Bedei said Wednesday the city will continue negotiating with the Reading Fire Protection District on a possible intergovernmental agreement for emergency ambulance services, but she said she will remain steadfast in working out a deal that is fair to citizens within the city limits.

Since the council opted to explore creating its own emergency ambulance service, Bedei has said she doesn’t want to see Streator property taxpayers supplement the cost of those outside the city limits that don’t pay property taxes to Streator, without those residents in neighboring districts paying a fair share.

Reading Fire Protection District Treasurer Tom Metzke told the council at Wednesday’s meeting the fire protection district can’t afford the current proposal.

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 matched that call volume, 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. Metzke said the district has $101,000 in the bank at this time.

Streator City Manager David Plyman said an agreement could finance Reading Fire Protection District to pay back the city over the future, after a referendum passes, but Metzke said fire protection district trustees believe it’s too risky to begin accumulating debt with a revenue source that’s not guaranteed to pass.

Still, Metzke said he was encouraged the city wants to continue talks.

“I’m hopeful we can figure it out, but our finances haven’t changed,” Metzke said.

Bedei said there was nine days until the new ambulance service launches and AMT ceases operations, meaning the City Council may have to call an emergency special meeting if an agreement is reached. She encouraged other council members to contribute to negotiations, however, three members of the council can’t meet to discuss city business without a meeting being posted.

“We’re going to work with Reading to see if we can find some kind of agreement,” Bedei said.

Plyman said telecommunicators soon will need a map of where Streator’s ambulances will respond. Long Point’s Fire Protection District is expected to enter into the same agreement for $485 per call offered to Reading and Allen Township (Ransom) may enter into an intergovernmental agreement for a portion of its district, but at this time, the map will not include Reading.

Plyman recommended the City Council be cognizant Reading residents don’t pay property taxes to the city. Residents who pay city property taxes fund the ambulance service and the $485 fee is meant as a way for Reading to make up that difference.

In another ambulance-related item, the City Council finalized ambulance billing. An advanced life support call will be $1,500 and a basic life support call $1,200, with supplemental charges added based on market prices a few times per year. Bedei asked the prices be published on the city’s website. Plyman said the city expects to receive its license within the next couple days.

Plyman said: “The final pieces are coming together.”