PRINCETON — The Princeton City Council voted unanimously Monday to allow Perry Memorial Hospital and Peoria-based OSF HealthCare to consider partnership options.

The hospital, an independent affiliate of OSF, is municipally owned and council permission was necessary to begin the process that was already endorsed last month by the hospital's board.

The discussions could take up to a year, OSF officials stated in a news release.

“We are pleased with the decision by the City Council to allow us to enter into exclusive conversations with our longtime affiliate,” said OSF HealthCare CEO Bob Sehring in a prepared statement. “Together, we have cared for residents of Bureau, Marshall and Putnam counties for many years, and look forward to considering ways in which we may further our partnership with

Perry Memorial to ensure residents’ health care needs continue to be met.”

Such discussion is likely to focus on health care innovation and advancements, the Princeton mayor indicated.

“The city recognizes that health care is transforming with significant advancements in technology beyond what we have seen in the past,” said Princeton Mayor Joel Quiram in a prepared statement. "The ability to participate in this innovation is an important point of consideration for our conversations going forward. We believe we are being proactive in looking at the future now. We

recognize that certain components of health care come with the personal touch, and we are determined to deliver that aspect of care to our community for decades to come.”

OSF HealthCare has expanded its presence around Illinois in recent years, including an announcement earlier this month of a pending merger to absorb Evergreen Park-based Little Company of Mary and its affiliated clinics.