POPE COUNTY, IL — A dispute over funding is at the center of a conflict between a southern Illinois ambulance service and the board of commissioners of the county it serves.
In a Facebook post Wednesday, the Pope County Ambulance Service announced that, after 40 years, it will have to stop serving Pope County. The post claims the board has withheld tax money from the ambulance service.
“Unfortunately due to your County Commissioners decision to withhold our tax money, we will have no choice but to close our doors Sunday morning,” the post reads.
In response, the Pope County Board of Commissioners sent a news release Thursday afternoon, outlining thousands of dollars in property taxes the board says the county has paid to the ambulance service.
The release says Pope County Ambulance Service Director Sabrina Banks first approached the board in June, saying that the ambulance service was in financial distress.
So, when the first installment of the of property taxes was collected, the board says the ambulance service was given a check for $50,418.07. The total was a little more than $100,000, but the county subtracted the roughly $50,000 advancement from that.
The release goes on to say the ambulance service then asked the board to advance their remaining tax funds, which would be about $46,000.
The board says commission members asked the ambulance service to show how their funding was being spent.
The release says the county board never got those records. It says an ambulance service board member told the county board that, even with the second installment, the ambulance service would be out of funds by Dec. 1.
Banks called Local 6 not long after the county board of commissioners sent its news release. She said the commission is withholding that second installment.
Additionally, the news release says the ambulance service had asked the county board to buy a new ambulance. The county board offered to buy one using American Rescue Plan Act funds to buy the vehicle; the title would be in the county’s name and leased to the ambulance service — which is a private, not-for-profit corporation — for $1 per year. However, the county board says it was later informed that the ambulance service had canceled the purchase of the vehicle.
Banks confirmed that the ambulance service did cancel the order for the new ambulance. She said the county wanted to have the power to appoint people to the ambulance service’s board in exchange for the vehicle.
She said the county government has no business appointing members to the company’s board, because it is privately owned.
The county said it is now accepting bids for a new ambulance service in Pope County. The release says the county has also requested mutual aid from emergency services in neighboring counties.
Download the document below to read the two-page news release from the county board of commissioners in full.