For the first time since 1938, the Antioch Rescue Squad is not contracted to provide ambulance service on fire or rescue calls in the Antioch area.
The contract between the controversial volunteer rescue squad and the First Fire Protection District of Antioch ended at 5 a.m. Friday, officials said. Ambulance calls for all 27,000 residents in Antioch and Antioch Township were switched to the Antioch Fire Department, officials said.
"We had an extremely peaceful transition at 5 a.m. and have now established ourselves throughout the district," Fire Chief John Nixon said. "The crews are hard at work moving into fire station 3 (on Grass Lake Road), and 11 fire department employees are staffed at the three fire station buildings."
Nixon said required fire service computer programs were uploaded to dispatch centers and ambulances to make for a smooth transition. He said people in need should not see any change in the calls.
"So far, I haven't heard of any complaints or issues," he said. "Everything seems to be running smoothly."
The change in service came after the First Fire Protection District of Antioch decided this year not to renew its contract with the Antioch Rescue Squad in order to consolidate fire and rescue services in the village and township under one fire department. The village made a similar decision one year earlier.
The rescue squad had been a fixture in the area for decades until 2012 when a sexual harassment lawsuit was filed by three former members against several colleagues and high-ranking rescue squad officials. That lawsuit led to an Illinois Department of Public Health investigation that revealed some rescue squad members were mistreating patients, abusing medications, and allowing employees to begin shifts within hours of excessively drinking alcohol.
A former Antioch Rescue Squad treasurer also was charged with stealing from the organization, and later pleaded guilty to theft of more than $10,000.
Chief Wayne Sobczak retired and squad President Steve Smouse stepped down in the wake of the mounting problems. Chief Brian DeKind and ARS President Todd Thommes took over.
Thommes said the rescue squad is reviewing its options.
"We do not have a future plan in place right now," he said.
"I wish I could say what the future is, but as of right now, we just don't know. We still need to sit down and go over all of that."