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Ill. city to receive Fitch & Associates fire, emergency response study

"The results will tell us if we're sending the right resources on emergency calls and if the resources being sent are appropriate," City Manager Patrick Urich said


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Steve Tarter
Journal Star, Peoria, Ill.

PEORIA, Ill. — The long-awaited study of the city's fire/medical operations is expected to finally arrive at Peoria City Hall Tuesday.

The Peoria City Council approved the study from Fitch & Associates, the agency based in Platte City, Mo., in May 2018 with the goal of having the report ready for council members in five months. A series of delays held up the report but Fitch's Bruce Moeller, a senior consultant, will update council members on the study and present several of the findings and recommendations.

Discussion of how much is expended on fire service and public safety personnel has been a major issue for the city during in budget talks both in 2017 and 2018. (Photo/Peoria IL Fire Department)
Discussion of how much is expended on fire service and public safety personnel has been a major issue for the city during in budget talks both in 2017 and 2018. (Photo/Peoria IL Fire Department)

The cost of the $50,000 analysis was split half between the city and half between OSF HealthCare Saint Francis Medical Center and UnityPoint Health-Methodist.

"The results will tell us if we're sending the right resources on emergency calls and if the resources being sent are appropriate," said City Manager Patrick Urich when the council approved the study last year.

Discussion of how much is expended on fire service and public safety personnel has been a major issue for the city during in budget talks both in 2017 and 2018.

While the Fire Department responded to 19,765 calls in 2017, only 252 were residential fires. Firefighters responded to more than 16,000 emergency medical calls that year.

The city's deployment of firefighters has been the subject of controversy. Budgetary constraints forced recent reductions in manpower and some realignment of resources. Those moves were opposed by Peoria Firefighters Union Local 50 who filed a unfair labor practices complaint last summer.

Regarding that complaint, an administrative law judge recently recommended nearly a dozen Peoria firefighters be reinstated and the two rescue trucks that were taken off line be reinstated. The city is appealing that decision.

At Large Councilwoman Beth Akeson, who repeatedly called for the Fitch study to be released, said it was hard for the council to make decisions on issues such as the assessment of fees by the fire department for emergency services until the results of the study are known.

That issue — the fire department's charging non-residents fees on a range of services — is also on the council agenda Tuesday.

Denis Cyr, the 5th District Councilman, said he'd like to see the state handle the issue of fees being charged for emergency services. "If the state issued mandates then all the cities in the state would be on an equal footing. The more fees we tack on make Peoria less competitive with other cities," he said.

"The Fitch report is likely to generate more questions than answers. I recently went through a previous report on the city's emergency response performance conducted by the Matrix Consulting Group in 2004. I want to know — of the some 35 recommendations made — how many were adopted?" said Cyr.

Another long-delayed item on the council agenda is a request to approve 1.3 acres of property at the end of Spring Street, known as the Simantel property, for $159,000 as an addition to Riverfront Park.

Mike Rucker, president of the Friends of the Rock Trail, said his group would welcome the addition of the property to the park but only after it's verified the area is clear of toxic waste and if it doesn't cost taxpayers more than $20,000.

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©2019 the Journal Star (Peoria, Ill.)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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