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Ambulance fees to be tackled during Sycamore City Council meeting

Police chief to present annual analysis of crime in city

Jim Winters talks about the Sycamore Police Department during a City Council meeting Aug. 7, 2017, before being sworn in as police chief.
Jim Winters talks about the Sycamore Police Department during a City Council meeting Aug. 7, 2017, before being sworn in as police chief.

It’s going to be a busy Monday in the Sycamore City Council chambers as the fiscal 2020 budget readies for introduction.

Portions of the budget have been rolled out over the past two months in preparation for the final period of consideration, including a public discussion set for the council’s April 1 meeting. The final budget is expected to be adopted April 15, City Manager Brian Gregory said.

However, there’s still work to be done. Among the big-ticket items on Monday’s agenda is an overhaul of ambulance service fees recommended by the city’s fire department.

After a review of the current fee structure, which included input from the Sycamore Fire Department and analysis of similar-sized cities’ practices, the council will be asked to weigh in on a proposed flat-rate structure for ambulatory services.

“For several years, the question has been, ‘What is the cost per ride?’ ” Gregory said. “We tried to use that methodology to arrive at a cost of the service and recommend billing based upon that.”

Under the proposal, any call for basic or advanced life support would be billed $1,720. The current billing structure allows for three types of calls to be billed differently, as well as a varied fee for residents and nonresidents.

The proposal also calls for lift assist fees to increase from $700 to $860, half the proposed flat fee, while mileage charges for all calls would remain the same.

The city said the Sycamore Fire Department responded to 2,281 calls in fiscal 2018, with 1,796 of those being for emergency medical services, or 78.7 percent of all calls. The department’s operational costs during that time were pegged at $3,925,932, which the city then took 78.7 percent of, or $3,089,708, and divided by the 1,796 calls to reach the proposed figure of $1,720 a call.

Only $604,763 in ambulance fee revenue was collected during the same fiscal period, which amounted to about 20 percent of the total costs.

Andres Medical Billing handles collections for Sycamore, and it is one of about 200 communities the company services. Should the city move to flat-rate billing, Andres said it will reduce its billing fee from 5 percent to 4 percent.

“The fee savings based on current rates would be in the neighborhood of $5,000,” Gregory said. “However, even more savings would be realized, with considerable less staff time dedicated to the more simplified flat rate process.”

In other business, facade grants under the city’s Downtown Improvement Program for Morningstar Media and a new coffee shop in the 200 block of South California Street will go before the full council.

Ryan and Karen Weckerly, owners of Morningstar, bought the former Knodle’s Appliance home that sat empty for about seven years. The Weckerlys plan to move their media firm into the 220 S. California St. location, and the new California Street Coffee would occupy the 224 address. Along with building upgrades, the Weckerlys also will improve parking facilities around their businesses.

Kishwaukee Bible Church also has said it is planning exterior improvements to its location at 201 W. State St. Work on the building is aimed at maintaining the facility using its present colors and materials, according to the city.

The Weckerlys’ projects combine to cost $63,715 covered by the Downtown Improvement Program, while the upgrades at Kishwaukee Bible Church are estimated at $39,704. The program allows business owners to apply for matching grants of 50 percent for eligible upgrades up to $5,000. All three grants are recommended for approval.

Sycamore Police Chief Jim Winters will give his annual report on the Sycamore Police Department, offering a statistical analysis of the department’s work in the past year and a comparison with previous years. A copy of the full report will be available at the police department as well as on the city’s website,

The City Council will meet at 7 p.m. Monday at the Sycamore Center, 308 W. State St.

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