For the third time in less than a year, a controversy in Wauconda is pitting concerned residents against village hall. This time it’s a proposal to close the police department’s dispatch center and outsource the service to nearby Lake Zurich.
On Tuesday, Village Administrator Doug Maxeiner will talk to the board and the community about why he thinks outsourcing is a good idea. The session is set for 7:15 p.m. at Wauconda High School.
No vote is planned after the discussion. That could come in March at the earliest.
Ahead of the meeting, we’ve tried to answer questions about the plan and its potential impact on the community.
Q. Why has outsourcing been proposed?
A. The dispatchers are represented by a labor union, and they’ve been working without a contract since April 2013. Village officials investigated outsourcing as a way to save money on the cost of dispatching.
Q. How much money will it save?
A. Maxeiner has said contracting with Lake Zurich could save $2.1 million over five years.
Q. If this is a money issue, is the village in trouble financially?
A. Not right now. But it could face deficit spending within a year or two, officials said last week.
Q. Did this idea originate with Mayor Frank Bart?
A. Bart has said the inquiries started before he took office in May 2013. At a June 4 board meeting, however, Bart said running the 911 center is too costly to be sustainable. He said eliminating the service could save $600,000 annually, the official minutes for the meeting show. They certainly were under way before Maxeiner started as village administrator in November 2013, although he acknowledged it was one of the projects he was handed upon being hired.
Q. Why was Lake Zurich chosen to provide the service?
A. In a news release, Maxeiner said Lake Zurich’s dispatchers are “highly professional” and proficient in assessing emergency situations and getting the right personnel and equipment to scenes. The center also is part of an accredited police department, he said, and the dispatchers have served as Wauconda’s backup for years.
Q. Have other towns or agencies bid for the service?
A. Village officials gathered pricing information from dispatch centers in Mundelein, Fox Lake and Round Lake, as well as a private company that offers the service, Maxeiner said Monday. He’s also personally spoken with officials from three of the agencies. “Based strictly on cost, it appears that Lake Zurich would be the preferred choice,” he told the Daily Herald.
Q. Will the Wauconda Police Department be the only agency affected?
A. No. The Wauconda Fire Protection District — an independent government agency — also uses the police department’s dispatchers for emergency calls, as do the Lakemoor and Tower Lakes police departments. All would have to find new 911 providers.
Q. What will happen to Wauconda’s current dispatchers if the village shuts down the center?
A. Ten full-time and two part-time dispatchers will be laid off.
Q. What will happen to the dispatch center and its equipment if the board approves outsourcing?
A. The village could sell the equipment, Maxeiner said. Officials also could try to reduce the cost of outsourcing by negotiating the use of the gear, he said. Or, they could keep the equipment for uses that haven’t yet been made public.
Q. Were voters promised dispatch services wouldn’t be outsourced if they approved a tax increase for the fire protection district in 2010?
A. Yes. But Bart has repeatedly criticized that referendum and the promises made to the community. Last week, when someone pointed out the pledge not to outsource was a big selling point, Bart said: “That was back in 2010. It’s a different time.”
Q. Is outsourcing a done deal?
A. No. Maxeiner’s preliminary recommendation is just that — a recommendation. It’ll be up to the six members of the village board to vote on the proposal. Bart would be asked to break a tie if the vote comes down 3-3.