Alameda firefighters will continue to offer exclusive ambulance services on the Island under a proposed deal with Alameda County officials that was given the green light Tuesday by the City Council.

The decision follows county officials warning city leaders in September that they must secure an emergency services contract by Jan. 3 or Alameda firefighters would lose their exclusive right to provide the service, which in turn would allow private emergency companies to step in.

The council authorized Interim City Manager Ann Marie Gallant to wrap up negotiations and sign off on the proposed contract with the agency that oversees the county's Emergency Medical Services District.

Since the $857,831 needed to secure exclusive rights was not included in the current Alameda Fire Department budget, it means the district will receive the money from the city's General Fund.

City officials are recommending, however, that future costs be met through a tax on Island property owners similar to the one that property owners already pay throughout Alameda County to fund the district.

"It's a very critical health issue for our community," Mayor Beverly Johnson said about having exclusive rights to provide ambulance services. She commended the efforts of Gallant and Interim Alameda fire Chief Mike Fisher to secure the proposed contract.

The effort to hammer out a deal between the city and the county has stretched more than five years, Councilman Frank Matarrese noted.

Along with Alameda, the cities of Berkeley, Piedmont and Albany provide exclusive ambulance services through their fire departments.

Gallant said single-family homeowners likely would pay about $26 annually under a future assessment, while owners of residential buildings with up to five units would pay $63 annually. The cost for multifamily apartment buildings would be about $395 annually, she said.

Alameda County voters established the emergency district in 1982 to improve trauma care for local residents.