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decatur ambulance service 4 06.20.18.JPG (copy)

Decatur Ambulance Service stops at HSHS St. Mary's Hospital in June.

DECATUR — The city council at tonight's meeting will consider a comprehensive update to the city's rules regarding ambulance service, something Decatur Fire Chief Jeff Abbott says will bring the city in line with new standards and technology that have largely been in place in communities across the country for years.
"We're not reinventing the wheel, the wheel's been in place for a while, Decatur just hasn't put it on the car (yet)," Abbott said Monday.
Watch the meeting here at 5:30 p.m., or attend at the City Council Chambers inside the Decatur Civic Center.
Under the proposed changes, ambulance calls in Decatur would be overseen by the city's Fire Department and folded into the the department's emergency incident command system.
Currently, ambulance companies operating in Decatur respond to emergency calls independently, which Abbott says prevents the fire department from coordinating emergency services based on level of emergency.
The proposal from city officials comes two months after the parent company of HSHS St. Mary's Hospital acquired the family-run Decatur Ambulance Service, still the only operator in the city.
It also comes as Carle Arrow Ambulance, an Urbana-based ambulance service, is seeking a license from the city to operate in Decatur. According to Abbott, it would be the first time in decades more than ambulance service has operated in Decatur at the same time.
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A spokeswoman for Arrow Ambulance said representatives of the company would be at tonight's council meeting for the discussion and potential vote on the changes. HSHS St. Mary's did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but council members expect them to be at the meeting, according to Councilman Patrick McDaniel.
The new code implements a laundry list of new requirements recommended by the city's fire department based on research of agreements with ambulance service providers and other cities in the region.
In July, Abbott called the city's ambulance service agreement "antiquated."
The changes also would include things like mandatory reports to the fire department on ambulance response times. Emergency responders must arrive to a high-emergency scene within eight minutes of the call, and within 12 of others, but the city code does not mandate ambulance service companies to report those times.
One thing the new ordinance does not change is the license fee the city will charge ambulance services, something Abbott noted in the past was extremely low compared to other cities in Central Illinois.
In March, the city of Champaign increased annual ambulance service fees from $125 to $15,000. Decatur's would stay at $400 under the new code changes.
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Regarding the possibility of licensing a second ambulance service company, Interim City Manager Billy Tyus said earlier this month they would not be split into separate territories — rather they would both be folded into the fire department's incident command system, and calls would be assigned based on response time.
Council members also approved a $2 million project to update the energy efficiency of the city's outdoor lighting and indoor lighting in the Civic Center and Decatur Public Library.
Tonight's meeting will also include a vote on doubling the city's license fees of video gaming terminals, from $250 to $500. The change would take effect in January. In past meeting discussions, a majority of council members have voiced their support of the increase. 

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Contact Tom Lisi at (217) 421-6949. Follow him on Twitter: @tommylisi


Decatur Reporter

Decatur reporter for the Herald & Review.

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