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Local

Sycamore eyes savings through flat-rate structure for ambulance service

Official: Construction on Meijer will start once weather allows

Sycamore Police Chief Jim Winters lays out his department's annual report on crime in the city during Monday's City Council meeting.
Sycamore Police Chief Jim Winters lays out his department's annual report on crime in the city during Monday's City Council meeting.

SYCAMORE – Changing ambulance fees was one of the big-ticket items on the agenda at Monday’s Sycamore City Council meeting.

The Sycamore Fire Department estimates the costs of ambulance services at just shy of $3.1 million in fiscal 2018, but the city only recouped around $605,000 of that.

City Manager Brian Gregory said the new flat-rate structure discussed with council Monday would simplify billing, allowing further cost savings for the city. The plan was developed over the previous few months in consultation with the Sycamore Fire Department, he said.

“Currently we do a different billing for the type of service provided,” Gregory told the council. “We wanted to really try to see what it costs us and then work from there.”

The new plan calls for a single rate of $1,720 on any ambulatory call for basic or advanced life support. In addition, lift assist fees would increase from $700 to $860 under the new guidelines.

Andres Medical Billing, which operates city collections for ambulance services, said it would lower its fee from 5 percent to 4 percent under the new flat-rate plan.

“We’ve gone through this exercise a couple times and the question was always asked, ‘What’s the real cost of this?’ ” Fire Chief Peter Polarek said. “Over time, there’s been a greater influence on trying to make those costs truly pay for the service.

“This change in philosophy and this change in the pricing structure fit in many respects.”

The council will continue to review the proposal ahead of the next fiscal year, beginning May 1.

Odds and ends

In other business, a trio of grants to downtown businesses was approved by the council. The three locations, two on the 200 block of South California Street and one at 201 W. State St., will receive $5,000 in matching grant funds from the city for exterior improvements.

Special use permits for a proposed medical marijuana dispensary on Gateway Drive and Accurate Towing’s location at 531 E. Sycamore St. gained unanimous approval. The dispensary will now need the state to reopen its licensing program for medical marijuana facilities to move forward, something city leaders and advocates say is unlikely to happen at this time.

The planned Meijer retail outlet on Peace Road is moving ahead, with Director of Building and Engineering John Sauter saying he expects work to begin as soon as weather allows.

And Gregory introduced the preliminary fiscal 2020 budget into the record following the approval of a number of items during Monday’s meeting. Council members and residents will now have two weeks to analyze the entire budget package ahead of an April 1 community input session at the next council meeting.

The city expects to pass the 2020 budget at its April 15 meeting.

Mayor Curt Lang was absent from Monday night’s city council while on vacation.

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