NECAS to sell out

By GARY HENRY ghenry@prairiepress.net
Posted 4/5/21

CHRISMAN — Uncertainty was the major factor in keeping members of the Northern Edgar County Ambulance Service (NECAS) board from making decisions about the future at the Tuesday, March 30, …

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NECAS to sell out

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CHRISMAN — Uncertainty was the major factor in keeping members of the Northern Edgar County Ambulance Service (NECAS) board from making decisions about the future at the Tuesday, March 30, meeting.

The situation turned around two days later when the board met in special session after receiving more information.

Board president Kevin Julian had arranged for an appraiser to look at NECAS’ biggest asset, a building on the Chrisman square that serves as an ambulance bay for two ambulances and has office space and living quarters for crew members pulling a long shift.

“I did get an appraiser to look at the building and I was supposed to get something today, but I did not,” Julian said Tuesday.

The arrival of the appraisal placing a $50,000 value on the building prompted the special meeting Thursday, April 1. After discussion, board members decided the best way to proceed is to seek sealed bids for the building, two ambulances and other equipment. Ambulance coordinator Jeremy Neal was instructed to contact attorney Robert Morris to start that process.

Neal also had some bad news for the board Thursday. He reported the motor on one of the ambulances failed again. 

Time is short for the volunteer ambulance service that covers Young America, Ross, Prairie, Brouilletts Creek, Edgar and Shiloh townships. Voters in northern Edgar County previously approved creating a special service area that collects a property tax to help underwrite an ambulance.

A special service area makes the Edgar County Board responsible for collecting the tax and bidding the service.

“If there are no bids will this board keep the service going until the county does something?” NECAS coordinator Jeremy Neal asked during the Tuesday meeting.

Bids are due Monday, April 5, and the county board has scheduled a special meeting Thursday, April 8, for bid openings. Neal said Edgar County Clerk and Recorder August Griffin confirmed no bids had arrived as of March 30.

NECAS board members reluctantly agreed if no bids are received they will likely have to keep the volunteer service in place until the county board has a viable plan for the succession. The county board has been operating on a timeline of having a new operator by June 1.

How to dispose of a new heart monitor installed a few months ago in the NECAS ambulance is another tricky issue. The new monitor, required by a deadline for a change in equipment standards, was partially purchased with an Illinois State Fire Marshal equipment grant.

Neal said the fire marshal has confirmed the monitor can be given to another not-for-profit service

without any additional obligation by NECAS. If the monitor is sold, NECAS is financially responsible for returning the original grant money of $22,000 as reimbursement.

The building, ambulances and other equipment are not part of the county’s bid process. In a special service area, bidders make proposals only on how much of the tax is needed to provide the required service. The hope among those involved with NECAS is the new provider will want the building.

When NECAS started in the 1980s there were many volunteers available to keep the service viable without the overhead expense of salaries and benefits. Those original volunteers have aged out and many are no longer physically capable of lifting heavy patients or hauling gear at an accident scene. Few others have stepped forward to replace them.

Changing times have also contributed to a scarcity of volunteers. Over the years, training to obtain and maintain an Emergency Medical Technician certificate has become more rigorous and more expensive. NECAS board members have often noted the training cost is such people cannot afford to go through the process, just to volunteer, and not get compensated.