VOSJ Considers Pulling Ambulance Service, Passes 1st Reading of Emergency Curfew Ordinance

By Benjamin Cox on June 3, 2020 at 4:14pm

The Village of South Jacksonville held the final public budget hearing last night and held an emergency meeting directly after.

During the budget hearing, the village trustees trimmed more from their budget, leaving approximately a $35,000 deficit for the year. Village Trustee Todd Warrick says that there is still a few days left to work on a few numbers but the budget is close to being as balanced as it has ever been. “We are getting extremely close to a balanced budget. This is one of the closest balanced budget that the village has seen for a long time, so we are just about there. We are not done yet.”

The village backed away from a $300,000 allocation from a previous meeting for renovations and a Veterans Monument at Dewey Park for this year’s budget, and has decided to allocate the total over two installments over the next two fiscal years.

The other major issue was the possible defunding of the ambulance service for the village. The biggest concern from all trustees is the lack of revenue. Fire Chief Richard Evans, Jr. asked the board to give the ambulance service a shot at coming up with a good plan to make it more profitable before pulling the plug. Warrick says he needs to see when and why the ambulance service is ran to the benefit of the residents of the village. “If it’s not going to be self-sustainable, then it doesn’t need to be there. When I’m asking Chief Evans about stuff about the ambulance service, I keep getting thrown at me that the service backs up LifeStar, we back up Murrayville-Woodson, we back up some of the other small communities and you’ve got to remember where this money comes from to fund this ambulance and where it’s coming from, and it’s coming from the South Jacksonville residents. If it’s not benefiting South Jacksonville residents and it’s costing us money to run in other communities, I don’t know why we need the service. I don’t understand that. It’s not run very often. I couldn’t get a clear answer out of Chief Evans on how many times it does run a month or breaking that down in a monthly summary on where does the ambulance go. Does it stay in the village or does it go out to surrounding communities? I just don’t want South Jacksonville residents to be funding other businesses or communities shortfalls in that they can’t run their own ambulance service. We are not getting money from the private companies or communities for the service we provide.”

The emergency meeting held directly after budget talks dealt with an emergency response ordinance that would govern whether the village would have to install a public protection curfew. Village Police Chief Tim Mann said that he wanted to have a plan of action to follow in case the City of Jacksonville had to install an emergency curfew on the public. “This was of such a high priority recently that I asked the City and the County about curfews, and they are checking and making sure that they are ready to enact if needs to be used. Where I saw a great problem was if the city implemented a curfew and the village was not able to do so, then it would drive a lot of people south.”

Warrick says that the ordinance would provide emergency enforcement powers to the village that it currently doesn’t have codified: “It gives us that avenue to enforce a curfew. The City of Jacksonville has this power. If the city enforced a curfew and we did not have that means to do it, the possibility that whatever problem it is that they are having coming to the village and we didn’t have means to enforce it – that would be detrimental to the safety of the village’s residents.”

The emergency management ordinance will receive ratification at the Village Board’s official monthly business meeting on Thursday, June 4th at 7PM.