Posts Tagged DuPage County investigates further fire service cooperation

Regional fire service concept discussed in DuPage County (more)

The Naperville Sun had a recent article about the recent discussions on regional consolidation of fire protection services and the possible impact on the City of Naperville.

The DuPage County task force studying the possibility of consolidating firefighting services throughout the county has raised concerns about local fire stations closing to make service more efficient. However, at this point, it’s not likely to happen in Naperville.

[Naperville Fire Chief Mark] Puknaitis is part of the group that includes the DuPage Fire Chiefs Association, two members of the DuPage Mayors and Managers Conference and DuPage County Board member Gary Grasso (R-Burr Ridge) looking at how fire departments can consolidate some services to save money.

Last week, Grasso unveiled a working plan for a quadrant system, which divided the county into four sections. Naperville would be in the southwest quadrant along with s large section of Lisle.

The group’s effort is part of a broader conversation DuPage officials have been having for the last several years about strategies for improving fire protection services and making them more cost efficient. Puknaitis said that when it comes to costs, Naperville’s taxpayers are faring pretty well. He gave his own home as an example, saying that he only paid $100 per year on his property tax bill for fire protection.

Puknaitis said that Naperville property taxpayers benefitted from the fact that fire service is funded partially by revenue sources other than property taxes, such as the city’s sales tax. Many other fire protection districts are actually separate taxing bodies, limited in revenue to what they can levy in property taxes. He cited the nearby Lisle-Woodridge and Plainfield fire prevention districts, both separate taxing bodies.

Although no one on the task force has mentioned the possibility of actual consolidation of taxing bodies, the quadrant proposal is in its early stages and consolidating services of some sort might require agreements between different districts.

Puknaitis does see merit in the quadrant system and some sort of shared service between districts, including purchasing equipment, a significant capital expense for fire prevention districts. He said that new arrangements might be made between them to make response times quicker by using a neighboring fire protection district if it is actually closer to the location of a call.

Naperville accounts for about 20 percent of DuPage County’s calls for fire response and EMS, and it’s a function that has seen changes in recent history. Where once a typical local fire department’s responsibilities were predominantly calls for structure fires, modern fire departments are generally a diversified service.

Naperville averages 25 to 30 calls per year for significant structure fires but 11,000 to 12,000 for other calls, many for emergency medical services, activated fire alarms or smaller fire incidents.

Puknaitis feels that the entire county will be able to make fire protection better and more cost-efficient without closing any stations in Naperville.

thanks Dan

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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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