By Bob Balgemann


MACHESNEY PARK – The North Park Fire Protection District wants to begin providing ambulance to the estimated 15,000 prople it serves.

Voters will be asked April 7 to approve a property tax increase of up to .40 to allow the department to purchase two ambulances and contract for paramedics and emergency medical technicians.

That would cost someone with a house valued at $88,000 an additional $100 each year.

North Park serves the south side of Machesney Park. Its boundaries are Minns Drive on the north, Highcrest Road to the south, the Rock River to the west and the Boone County line on the east.

Here are a couple of the primary reasons for wanting to provide its own ambulance service:

1. The department has first responders who  go to the scene of an emergency. But they are limited in what kind of medical care they can provide to a victim or victims.

Having an ambulance with trained paramedics and emergency medical techniciams (EMTs) would enhance that level of care.

2. Response time to an emergency is expected to improve.

Fire Chief Joel Hallstrom explained that when someone calls 911 a private ambulance service is dispatched.  The ambulance is supposed to reach the scene of the emergency in eight minutes or less, 80 percent of the time.

Eighty percent of the department’s 1,500 calls a year are medical emergencies. Of the 255 calls when an ambulance was dispatched, 17 did not meet the eight-minute benchmark, said Assistant Chief Keith McDonald.

Chief Hallstrom said it likely would be best to contract for paramedics and EMTs, who would be on duty 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The department currently has quarters for the crews to occupy during their shifts.

“The only capital costs would be the ambulances and equipment,” he said. A new ambulance will run $185,000, with an additional $90,000 needed for equipment.

If the referendum is approved, he said it would be about one year before tax revenue would be available. It would be up to the fire protection district’s board of trustees to decide how much of the .40 tax would be levied in the first year. It could be less, but not more.

Hallstrom said ambulance service would cost the department $650,000-$700,000 a year.

Friends of North Park Fire, a political committee formed to promote the April 7 referendum, will be contacting voters in the coming weeks, encouraging them to keep their families in mind when they go to the polls.

Members of the fire department may provide information about the referendum, but they are not allowed to voice an opinion on it.

The Friends organization held a fund-raiser Saturday afternoon at Rascal’s Bar and Grill on Torque Road in Loves Park. Proceeds will be used to help educate the public on the issue and advocate a “yes” vote.

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