Small-town Illinois residents debate what’s next after local ambulance service contract is terminated

ONEIDA, Illinois – The contract for the Altona, Oneida, and Wataga Ambulance Service (AOW) will be terminated come May 1st.  The three towns are now wondering who will be responding to 911 calls later in the year.

While the three small towns are known as one community, there’s been a feud lately.

“Yeah, there’s definitely a bit of tension,” confirms Oneida-Wataga firefighter, Ryan Wessling.

The feud is between the Oneida-Wataga Fire Department and the AOW Ambulance Service.

“Groups of volunteers can’t get along with each other and we’d hate to see a good service ruined because of personal conflicts,” says Rollie Moore, an Oneida farmer.

This comes after the trustees of the Oneida-Wataga Fire Department and the Altona Fire Department decided to terminate the contract with the ambulance service.

“Their responses were pretty slow,” Wessling explains.

But current EMT volunteers think otherwise.

“It’s basically going to limit our ambulance service for Oneida-Wataga,” says Pat Hennenfent, and AOW EMT. “They made a decision that they could provide better support on their own.  We have 20 volunteers that cover the district, we’ve never missed a call.”

Now Fire Department trustees are throwing around other options.

“The trustees, their goal is to find a replacement of some type,” says Wessling. “Whether it’s a new contract with AOW, whether it’s a local service to start servicing us (like Stark County), or us start our own ambulance service.”

But, no matter the decision, everyone can agree saving lives is the number one priority.

“In a lot small-town communities it’s like ‘that’s the way we’ve always done it’ and people don’t like change,” Wessling comments.

The AOW Ambulance Service is having a meeting January 9th at 7pm in Altona.