Hillsboro Council defers action on rescue unit proposal

The Hillsboro City Council did not make a decision at its June 15 meeting on a proposal from the city?s fire department to become a ?primary responder? on rescue calls in a designated area of Marion County.

The proposal was presented by Fire Chief Ben Steketee during a work session following Tuesday?s regular meeting. Although Steketee asked the council to make a decision that day, he was informed the council is legally prohibited from taking action outside of an official meeting.

Beyond that circumstance, though, council members said they needed ?bigger picture? information that would lead to a longterm budgeting plan for replacing fire-department vehicles in the future — including the rescue truck itself, a 1987 Ford F-350 that was donated in recent weeks to the Hillsboro department by the city of Florence. Under the arrangement, the city is responsible to maintain the truck and someday replace it.

Mayor Delores Dalke said the budgeting issue applies to all HFD vehicles. To illustrate her point, she mentioned the department?s ?new? ladder truck is almost 20 years old already, and no money has been systematically set aside to replace it.

Meanwhile, council members did express support for the proposal itself. The new arrangement would transfer the responsibility of providing a primary rescue unit from Marion County Emergency Medical Services to four county fire departments: Hillsboro, Marion, Peabody and Florence. EMS would continue to administer the program and have around $26,000 budgeted annually to provide training and acquire equipment for the four departments.

Currently, all of the fire departments in the county are equipped and trained to respond as ?secondary responders,? according to Steketee. The four departments interested in becoming a primary responder have the personnel necessary to provide 24/7 response, he said.

The council did not talk about a timeline for making a decision on the proposal Steketee presented.

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