Posts Tagged fire departments consider consolidation

Fire department consolidation proves complex

Excerpts from the

Citing nearly impossible legal hurdles at the state level, the Carpentersville Fire Department, East Dundee Fire Protection District and West Dundee Fire Department will not seek a complete consolidation at this time.

However, the fire chiefs do agree it should be a goal for the future. “It doesn’t mean we’re stopping and just not doing anything,” West Dundee Chief Randy Freise said. “We’re just not jumping in all at once. We’re breaking it down into smaller pieces.”

In November of 2014, members of the Carpentersville Village Board, East Dundee and Countryside Fire Protection District Board, and West Dundee Village Board shared the $30,908 expense to initiate the study by Emergency Services Consulting International. In October of this year, results from that in-depth study concluded consolidating fire services would make sense.

However, Freise said during a presentation at Monday’s board meeting, when the fire chiefs were tasked with analyzing the study and discussing the results with their respective boards “we came to the conclusion a complete legal consolidation at this time would be too difficult to do.”

Freise said a state law passed in the last year and a half requires more hurdles in order to make consolidations possible. “Now we have referendums and court appearances and all these different things we have to do in order to do this,” he said. “It kind of takes the decision away from the local boards and makes it much more difficult.”

They plan to keep working toward the ultimate goal of a potential full consolidation. That includes the possibility of forming work groups represented by members of each department and municipality and tasked with developing a regional approach to providing the best outcome, and a regional board that would include a fire chief from each of the respective towns and a trustee from that town to consider the recommendations of the work groups.

The fire chiefs are also meeting with Sen. Karen McConnaughay this month to discuss the roadblocks in state law considering consolidation, Freise said. “One of our goals is to meet with local legislators to make them aware the state is making it more difficult and to see if we can’t change the legislation and make it more streamlined,” he said.

Freise said in the last few weeks he has also heard from the Rutland-Dundee Township Fire Protection District chief who is interested in joining the conversation of a possible future consolidation. “A big piece of our regional puzzle that has been missing from the onset is participation of Rutland-Dundee Township Fire Protection District,” he said. “Through all of this we’ve continued to work closely with them and will most likely continue to do so in the future, no matter what it holds.”

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Mundelein eliminates fire chief position

Excerpts from the

Earlier this month, Mundelein decided not to fill its vacant fire chief position and instead promoted its police chief into a job that oversees both departments. Now officials say more government consolidation might be in the works.

Village Administrator John Lobaito said the new structure will be in place for 12 to 24 months as a trial run, while Mundelein researches options for sharing resources with neighboring municipalities. Nearby Countryside Fire Protection District has already expressed interest, according to Countryside Fire Chief Jeff Steingart.

“When everything started [with Mundelein], we opened the door to take a peek and begin a dialogue on what we can do together in the future,” Steingart said. “It’s still really early on and they’re reviewing all their options, but once things get settled in, our two leaderships will be sitting down together.”

Mundelein’s leadership change comes after more than three months without a fire chief or deputy fire chief. Tim Sashko retired April 30 when a neck injury resurfaced after eight years as fire chief. Shortly thereafter, Deputy Chief Tim Leidig took a job in West Chicago leaving Mundelein without a top fire administrator.

On Aug. 10, village trustees created a new position called public safety director to lead both the police and fire departments, and promoted Police Chief Eric Guenther into that job, essentially taking one administrator off the payroll.

“This is not necessarily the end game,” Lobaito said before trustees voted on Aug. 10. “It is intended to be in place until we decide it doesn’t work or until we find a better way.”

Battalion Chief Ben Yoder, who was doing all administrative duties the past three months, was promoted to deputy fire chief during that same Aug. 10 meeting. A series of internal promotions will yield one firefighter opening, Guenther said, but otherwise Mundelein will not add any new positions in either department.

The ordinance Mundelein approved specifically says the jobs of fire chief and police chief will not be eliminated, but rather left vacant in case trustees want to restore the old administrative system in the future.

In the meantime, Mundelein will save more than $135,000 by not replacing Sashko. According to payroll documents, Sashko’s final salary was $147,113 per year and Guenther’s new stipend is $971.66 per month. ($11,659)

Guenther’s salary as police chief is $153,340, according to payroll documents, which equates to a 7.6 percent annual raise.

Countryside already shares a lot of coverage with Mundelein’s fire department, Steingart said, and sharing more administrators wouldn’t be too complicated. The Countryside fire station along Midlothian Road is actually in Mundelein, although the fire district is not responsible for the surrounding Mundelein homes and shopping centers.

Countryside is an independent taxing body that provides fire services to approximately 35,000 residents in a 24-square-mile zone including parts of Vernon Hills, Lincolnshire, Long Grove, Hawthorn Woods, Indian Creek, Kildeer and unincorporated areas.

In the mid-1990s, when Mundelein’s boundaries inched closer to Countryside’s Midlothian Road fire station, representatives from both groups made an agreement, Steingart said: Countryside would help Mundelein along Midlothian Road and Mundelein would help Countryside along Route 45.

“I think we can work toward full consolidation, and not just Mundelein and Countryside, but other agencies too,” Steingart said. “That’s a long haul because there are a lot of moving pieces involved, such as needing to go to voters. But we all want to save lives and many of us help each other already.”

Consolidation is already moving forward in the dispatch area, Steingart pointed out. For several years, the Vernon Hills police department has operated a dispatch center that also coordinates Countryside, Lincolnshire police and Libertyville police and fire services.

That arrangement allows each municipality to reduce costs, while improving communication when issues arise, Steingart said, and a study is underway to see if an even bigger merger can occur. Further consolidation would allow for better prices by buying in bulk, expanding lower level jobs in a reorganization and improving service all without raising taxes.

Vernon Hills Police Chief Mark Fleischhauer, who is responsible for the dispatch center, expanded upon that subject during a July 7 village board meeting. He said the Lake County Emergency Telephone System Board is beginning a $350,000 study on the possibility of having one countywide dispatch center.

The Emergency Telephone System Board also contributed $2 million in August 2014 toward a new series of radio towers in Lake County that are owned by Illinois but designed and operated by Motorola, according to Lake County Board minutes. Lake County fronted the other $7 million to install the new technology, according to meeting minutes, because the radios used by sheriffs and public works crews are becoming obsolete.

Once those towers are in place, anyone with the new handheld radios and new dispatch center equipment can use the network, according to Lt. Mike Gregory of the Lake County Sheriff’s Office.

The Vernon Hills dispatch center is doing just that.

On July 7, Fleischhauer convinced Vernon Hills trustees to support the study for a consolidated county dispatch center and approve spending to switch the current dispatch center onto the Motorola network.

Previously, Vernon Hills used a small series of radio towers owned and maintained by a few local municipalities. Now, the cost for a radio network is being split between state agencies and a growing number of participating municipalities throughout Illinois.

Fleischhauer said if a countywide dispatch center is built, then crews in Vernon Hills, Lincolnshire, Libertyville and Countryside will already have the radios.

Mundelein police and fire services are not part of the consolidated dispatch center in Vernon Hills, and Mundelein officials say they’re still researching their options when it comes to radio networks.

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