Itasca fire district raises questions about Haymarket proposal

  • Haymarket Center seeks to convert a Holiday Inn into a 240-bed addiction rehab facility.

      Haymarket Center seeks to convert a Holiday Inn into a 240-bed addiction rehab facility. Rick West | Staff Photographer

  • Signs opposing the proposed Haymarket Center have popped up around Itasca.

    Signs opposing the proposed Haymarket Center have popped up around Itasca. Daily Herald photo

 
 
Updated 11/7/2019 5:59 PM

An attorney for the Itasca Fire Protection District is questioning Haymarket Center's claim that a proposed addiction treatment center would rarely use the district's only ambulance.

Haymarket officials insist their plan to convert a Holiday Inn into a 240-bed rehab facility wouldn't strain Itasca's police and fire services. The Chicago-based nonprofit's chief financial officer, James Baldwin, says the fire protection district's one ambulance would be called only if there was "an emergency affecting the health and safety of the patient."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Baldwin says a private ambulance service is expected to handle 90% of the advanced life safety and basic life safety calls from the proposed facility. As a result, he said, the total number of emergency calls requiring a response from police or firefighters is projected to be 33 a year -- 13 for fire/EMS and 20 for police.

But during a public hearing Wednesday night attended by more than 470 people, an attorney for the fire protection district asked Haymarket President and CEO Dan Lustig why the organization previously offered to buy an ambulance for the district.

"If your true calculations are that it's only going to be 13 calls per year that your proposed project is going to have on EMS, why would you offer to buy an ambulance?" attorney Stephen Dinolfo asked.

Lustig said Haymarket made the offer to village officials to address concerns raised about the project.

Haymarket wants to refurbish the hotel to house hundreds of patients with substance-use disorders at a time when advocates say there is a rising demand for services. There were 98 opioid-related deaths last year in DuPage County.

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But the proposal is facing opposition from residents who say Itasca is too small to support the facility. Opponents, for example, point to how the fire protection district needed voters to approve a property tax hike last fall to help balance its budget.

"There's a variety of things that were being presented as barriers or burdens to the village, to the fire protection district," Lustig said. "We were trying to work in good faith to try to address those issues."

However, Dinolfo said Haymarket never took its offer to buy an ambulance directly to the fire protection district.

"Offering the mayor an ambulance would be like offering the fire protection district a police car," he said. "It doesn't make a lot of sense."

Dinolfo also challenged Haymarket's claim that there were 338 emergency calls requiring a response from its Chicago location in a single year.

Residents who obtained the information through a Freedom of Information Act request insist the number of calls was 863.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Haymarket officials say there are several reasons for the discrepancy, including instances where individual calls were given multiple service codes.

But Dinolfo said Haymarket's analysis of the 911 calls didn't include two of the addresses for the campus in Chicago. He said one of those addresses -- 124 N. Sangamon St. -- had 649 emergency calls over five years.

"You made the conscious decision not to analyze data for the other two buildings that Haymarket uses to provide service to its 12,000 patients," Dinolfo said while questioning Baldwin on Wednesday.

Baldwin responded that Haymarket wanted to be in line with a report prepared by the village. "They use our two main business addresses, and we did the same," he said.

But Dinolfo said analyzing 911 call data for all the buildings would "give a more accurate picture."

Dinolfo also pointed out to Haymarket officials that a contract with the private ambulance company could be canceled at any time. In addition, there's no legal obligation for Haymarket to use a private ambulance service.

"If you didn't renew the contract or you cancel the contract or the contract ceased to be in existence," Dinolfo said, "the calls for services at your proposed facility would fall under the Itasca Fire Protection District."

But Haymarket officials say that's not their intention. In fact, Lustig said Haymarket is looking to get an additional ambulance company "as a secondary backup."

Haymarket officials are expected to respond to more questions during the next meeting, which is planned for Nov. 13 at Peacock Middle School in Itasca.

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