Excerpts from the ChicagoTribune.com:

Voters appear to have given the City of Highwood the go-ahead to dissolve the fire department so fire protection and paramedic services can be turned over to neighboring Highland Park.

At just after 9 p.m., with nearly 1,000 votes cast, the referendum question had 70 percent voting yes and and 30 percent voting no, according to unofficial Lake County election results.

The cities reached a 30-year agreement last fall for the Highland Park Fire Department to serve Highwood, a city of less than one square mile that is surrounded on all sides by Highland Park.

The deal hinged on Highwood voters agreeing to dissolve the local fire department in the March 15 referendum. If the referendum officially passes, Highland Park is scheduled to take over fire and paramedic services on July 1.

“This partnership will not only provide lasting financial benefits while maintaining high service levels,” Highwood Mayor Charles Pecaro said. “But also can become a model for municipalities seeking to share services with their neighbors.”

Highland Park’s Fire Station 34 at 1100 Half Day Road is located a few blocks west of Highwood’s western border, and the department already responds to many Highwood fire calls under automatic and mutual aid agreements.

Highland Park does not plan to hire any additional firefighters or paramedics, or acquire any additional equipment, saying its current staffing and equipment are sufficient.

Under the agreement, Highwood will pay Highland Park $625,000 the first year for fire and paramedic services, along with fire inspections. Annual increases will be tied to inflation, but capped at 5 percent.

Highwood expects to cut its current fire costs of $1.3 million by more than half under the arrangement.

Highwood Press Release:

March 15th Referendum Passage

The proposed Highwood & Highland Park fire and ambulance service partnership referendum that was included on the ballot passed yesterday. Voters confirmed the agreement that was unanimously approved by the City Councils of both Highwood and Highland Park to provide shared services to residents.

“This decision was not taken lightly by the City’s staff, elected officials or the Highwood voters,” said Scott Coren, Highwood’s City Manager. “Its passage shows residents’ confidence in Highland Park’s internationally accredited fire department. Their outstanding service levels, combined with the significant positive financial impact for both communities made this a prudent decision.”

In June 2014, the State of Illinois passed a law that requires municipalities to go to referendum, with specified language, to consolidate or provide shared fire and emergency medical services. The language is clearly slanted to push residents to vote against it. Highwood is the first municipality in Illinois to successfully pass this referendum question despite facing these obstacles.

“We are pleased to have the opportunity to extend Highland Park’s exceptional fire, EMS and fire inspection services to the City of Highwood. We remain committed to providing high quality public safety services to both communities at all times and we will continue to keep public safety as one of our core priorities,” stated Ghida S. Neukirch Highland Park City Manager.

Thank you to everyone who provided their feedback on the matter.

Charles Pecaro
City of Highwood