Posts Tagged DuPage County fire department and districts to consolidate services

Consolidation of fire districts in DuPage County

The Daily Herald has an article about talk of consolidating fire districts in DuPate County:

DuPage County Board candidate Jeremy Custer says county officials are “moving too fast” to consolidate fire districts and fire departments. But his opponent in the Nov. 4 election — District 4 incumbent Grant Eckhoff — insists he’s already waited five years to see progress made on the fire consolidation issue.

Both candidates have lauded DuPage’s efforts to explore consolidating local units of government as a way to save taxpayers money.

Custer, however, claimed this week that county officials have been putting undue pressure on fire protection districts and fire departments to consider consolidation. Earlier this year, a group of mayors and fire chiefs suggested that firefighting agencies in the county voluntarily work together to save money and improve service.

Custer said that plan by the DuPage Mayors and Managers Conference Fire Services Stakeholders group doesn’t need agencies merging to be successful.

Eckhoff insists consolidation is inevitable because every government entity in DuPage is dealing with budget challenges. “The person who says we’re going too fast doesn’t ever want us to do it,” said Eckhoff, who has been publicly pushing for fire consolidation since 2009. In order to keep existing levels of fire protection and emergency medical services, Eckhoff said there wouldn’t be a reduction in the number of firefighters if two departments are merged. Taxpayers would save money because there wouldn’t be a need for separate fire chiefs, finance departments, human resources departments and legal teams. He said administrative positions would be reduced through retirements and attrition.

Still, Eckhoff acknowledges that consolidation ideas have received pushback from some chiefs. “We knew some people didn’t want to do it,” he said. “If people wanted to do it, Illinois wouldn’t have more units of government than any state in the country. But the bottom line is, we should do it.”

Custer said the fire chiefs he’s heard from are concerned with the direction Eckhoff is taking. “They fear that this is going to be a march toward cutting head count and lowering the quality of service that the residents are used to getting,” Custer said.

If elected to the county board, Custer said he would pursue “a more deliberate and more thoughtful process” — not a push to consolidate for the sake of making it happen.

thanks Ron

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Regional fire service concept discussed in DuPage County

The Daily Herald has an article that talks about

Citing rising costs associated with responding to emergencies, a group of mayors and fire chiefs is calling on firefighting agencies in DuPage County to voluntarily work together to save money and improve service.

The DuPage Mayors and Managers Conference Fire Services Stakeholders group has drafted a proposal to have fire departments and fire protection districts coordinate services through a quadrant system. If the plan becomes a reality, DuPage would be divided into four parts with borders defined by I-88 and I-355. The agencies within each quadrant would be encouraged to share resources, engage in group purchasing practices, share training resources and standardize fire and operational guidelines, officials said.

“We are trying to get a system for cooperation that will keep prices down, keep costs down and maintain the level of efficiency and service that we already have,” said county board member Gary Grasso, co-chairman of the fire services stakeholders group.

He said the regional fire service concept was developed by the group over a four-year period. The panel initially explored the possibility of creating a countywide fire department. “Even in the land of Chicago and thinking big, that was probably too much to take on,” Grasso said.

Nevertheless, he said, something must be done because the cost of pensions, equipment and other expenses continue to rise.

County board member Grant Eckhoff, who has long sought consolidation of fire districts and departments, said agencies need to work together because of budget challenges. “This whole thing is driven by economics,” Eckhoff said. “We’re trying to get ahead of the curve and present an opportunity for people to come together to save costs.”

Grasso said a quadrant system can work in DuPage because the county has an abundance of fire stations, equipment and well-trained firefighters. Of course, the idea won’t happen unless agencies agree to participate.

“This is voluntary,” Grasso said. “Nobody is mandating anything. Even if we had the authority — which we do not — this is for the professionals to drive the collaboration, cooperation and consolidation.”

Officials said the next step is to present the idea to the fire chiefs, municipalities, fire protection districts, unions and others.

Grasso pointed out that some agencies already have a similar arrangement. The West Suburban Fire/Rescue Alliance, which includes the Wheaton Fire Department and the Carol Stream, West Chicago and Winfield fire protection districts, has worked to reduce emergency response times and share resources.

thanks Dan

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