Excerpts from the ChicagoTribune.com:
More than 100 people attended a Monday meeting to hear about a proposal for Libertyville to take over fire services for the Knollwood Fire Department.
“We feel there is capacity at Station 3 to provide services,” said Libertyville Fire Chief Rich Carani at the Knollwood Fire Station, 14 N. Skokie Highway, Lake Bluff. “There’s equipment there and there’s not a lot of calls, so it’s underutilized.”
In 2016, the Libertyville Fire Department received a total of 4,278 calls. Of those, Carani said, 1,716 were handled by Station 1, 1,802 by Station 2 and 766 by Station 3 at 13415 Atkinson Road, which is adjacent to the area covered by Knollwood Fire Department, which is just shy of a square mile.
Carani said the distance to calls would be up to 1.5 miles or about 3.2 minutes – assuming no delays due to traffic. Service, said Carani, would cost 30 percent less than that incurred by the Knollwood Fire Department and would be the same cost as paid by Libertyville residents. Specifically, the Rockland Fire Protection District, which is the taxing body for the Knollwood Fire Department, levies $620,000 and Libertyville would charge $380,000.
Station 3 is staffed by three firefighter-paramedics 24 hours a day, Carani said in response to questions from attendees. If firefighter-paramedics are away on another call – which he said happens 28 percent of the time – firefighter-paramedics would respond from one of the other two stations, which would increase response times.
Knollwood residents would not be responsible for existing pension obligations of Libertyville firefighters if an agreement is signed, said Brian O’Connor, attorney for the Rockland Fire Protection District.
The proposal by Libertyville is in the early stages, said O’Connor. Karl Snoblin, chairman of the board of trustees of the Rockland Fire Protection District, said it had also reaching out to Lake Forest, which is currently working on a proposal to take over fire services for Knollwood.
If another fire department provides fire services for Knollwood, Trustee Dan Rogers said it would be a long-term contract. He suggested 50 years with renewal scheduled for 40 years.
Residents questioned how Green Oaks Senior Living, scheduled to open at 14595 W. Rockland Road this fall would impact call volume at Station 3. Green Oaks will have 200 units, according to its website. Carani said that could mean an additional 200 calls per year for Station 3.
Libertyville has handled ambulance services for Knollwood the last two years – before that Lake Forest was responsible – and is currently in negotiations with Knollwood to renew that contract for five years.
Knollwood had a population of 1,613 in 2015 with 642 housing units, according to the American Community Survey of the U.S. Census. It has an all-volunteer fire department of about 50 people.
The proposal by Libertyville comes in a time of increasing costs for many North Shore fire departments. The city of Lake Forest, for example, is concerned about how to pay increasing pension costs for firefighters required by the state of Illinois and has recently begun discussion with neighboring municipalities on some form of sharing firefighting services.
In related news, a referendum will be on the April ballot asking voters in the Rockland Fire Protection District if the three trustees should be elected by voters rather than appointed by the Lake County Board.