Archive for February 16th, 2011

Fox River & Countryside Fire Rescue District update

The Daily Herald ran an article last week about the new Fox River & Countryside Fire Rescue District. Some excerpts from the article which was an interview with fire district president Jim Gaffney.

The creation of a new fire department by the Fox River and Countryside Fire/Rescue District will create a ripple of consequences that could impact infrastructure and property taxes. But district President Jim Gaffney believes vindication will come when he said 911 services improve.

The district voted last month to end its long-term relationship with the city of St. Charles. That blew a $2.2 million hole in the city’s budget, though city officials already announced a plan to cut costs. Those cuts include eliminating one fire company and participation in the tactical emergency medical services unit that supports the Kane County Sheriff’s SWAT team.

MGaffney’s vision for creating an “economical” solution to improve fire and ambulance service in the district’s coverage area speeds forward. He said adding two more ambulances and water tanker trucks as well as a total staff of about 57 firefighters and paramedics to the area can only improve service. Gaffney said private company manpower, including paid-on-call employees, may even be an upgrade to what citizens have experienced in the past.

“Paid-on-call and volunteer firefighters are much more dedicated than full-time firefighters,” Gaffney said. “It’s not a job to them; it’s a commitment.”

…the district will keep its eyes on the new plan Campton Hills is considering to start its own fire department. In theory, that would undercut much of the service area Fox River and Countryside relies on for tax dollars. Gaffney said he isn’t worried.

“They can’t afford to set up a fire department,” Gaffney said. “It’s a pipe dream as far as we’re concerned.”

The district’s trustees expect to name the department’s first chief within the next 10 days.

The complete article can be found HERE.

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St. Charles mayor predicts failure for new fire district

The following is from an article in the Daily Herald earlier this week.

St. Charles Mayor Don DeWitte on Monday predicted failure for the new Fox River and Countryside Fire/Rescue District because neither the finances nor the promises for better response times make sense to him.

“We think these are some drastic, definitive decisions the fire protection district is making,” DeWitte said. “We believe them to be ill-conceived. The ultimate result will be a reduction in service to the people we have served in the outlying areas for going on four or five decades.

“We just don’t believe much forethought has been put into this process. This is going to be a bad situation, and we’re going to have to watch it slowly implode.”

DeWitte and St. Charles Fire Chief Pat Mullen believe the district’s main problem is a tax rate that is simply too low to provide the level of fire service everyone wants in the district. At 19 cents per $100 of equalized assessed value, the rate is about one-third as much as any other nearby fire district.

“They have a revenue problem,” DeWitte said. “They don’t have an expense problem.”

Fire district officials are expected to soon finalize a contract with Wheaton-based American Emergency Services to provide both firefighters and paramedics at about $1.7 million a year. But the additional infrastructure cost to establish two firehouses in the district and an uncertain cost for personnel in the second year of the contract is what makes DeWitte and Mullen skeptical of the finances.

DeWitte and Mullen also demonstrated on a map of the service area how they believe the new firehouses in the district represent a false promise of better response times. Mullen said the location of the new houses, at the far southwest and northeast portions of the district, mean homeowners with the best response times under St. Charles will now wait longer when they experience fires and medical emergencies.

Mullen said the district, having only two firehouses and a large geographical coverage area, will be spread thin whenever more than one emergency call occurs. A chart the city created using GIS maps predicts a response time of up to 16 minutes for the district’s station near South Elgin to arrive at the Kane County Judicial Center if needed.

Aside from those predictions, DeWitte said the new fire district creates a financial problem for each of the Tri-Cities. The district’s separation from St. Charles and the Tri-City Ambulance Service means each community must now pay a larger share for the cost of having paramedics show up when residents need them. St. Charles, for instance, will shoulder an additional $200,000 of that price tag.

The complete article can be found HERE.

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Rockford investigates outsourcing EMS

WREX (Rockford) has an article HERE about the city council looking into the feasibility of outsourcing EMS.

The Rockford Finance and Personnel Committee wants to see if a private company can provide quality medical services to the city at a fraction of the price.

Committee member and former fire chief, Alderman Robertson says the current service is “second-to-none.” He wants to make sure a private medical team would meet the same standards.

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Stone Park is added to the site

The Stone Park Fire Department in MABAS Division 20 has been added to the site. Stone Park is a small town surrounded by Melrose Park and Northlake along North Avenue at Mannheim Road with a population just over 5,100 and an area of .3 square miles. They have three pieces of apparatus including an Osage Type III ambulance, one of the few Seagrave Flame engines, and an E-ONE Quest.

Stone Park Fire Department E-ONE Quest engine

Stone Park Fire Department Seagrave Flame engine

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