Consolidation of resources between villages has recently become a “buzz” topic, and another one of those “talking points” that politicians just LOVE to hear come out of their mouths. However, as the politicians are undoubtedly preparing for what may be a long a protracted battle with the residents, please arm yourself with the following information about what Consolidation and Resource Sharing really is.
First, Illinois Law doesn’t exactly allow for the “consolidation” of services … in other words, Villages are required to maintain their own public safety services – EXCEPT Fire Departments. There is an entirely different area of Illinois law that governs Municipal and Fire Protection District Fire Departments. The sharing of resources therefore, is a theoretical exercise in need. If we look at East Dundee and West Dundee, the amount of calls for service for their police departments combined is slightly more than half of what Carpentersville’s is alone. Therefore, in order for consolidation to work, Carpentersville should share 50% of the cost. It could certainly decrease response times, but in order for that to work, our Village would actually need to hire and maintain a larger police force. The savings realized could (if it weren’t for the pesky law) only be found in the sharing of administrative employees – the Chiefs.
The same could be said for the Fire Department, and, that is something that Illinois and the Illinois Firefighter’s Union (AFFI) has been looking at … allowing Municipalities to share the cost of a combined command structure. The individual departments still need to maintain their own staffing levels sufficient to provide for their own town, and they would still hire and pay their own lieutenant, firefighters and paramedics. However, there would be one unified command – Fire Chief, Assistant Chief and Battalion Chiefs – thus reducing the redundancy between neighboring towns. However, again, as with police, Carpentersville’s Fire department alone responds to nearly double the number of requests that East and West Dundee departments do – meaning we would need to hire and maintain more people than we do already.
There is also another way to combine Fire Department services. It involves the creation of a Fire Protection District (like the Carpentersville & Countryside Fire Protection District – which is where the municipal fire department came from originally) to encompass all the towns involved. It effectively creates a separate public entity that is not controlled by any of the villages. There is a separate tax line and residents elect separate trustees. While this removes the fire department from the budgets and control of all the towns, the residents will see a 500-600/yr increase in their property taxes, and the sales tax is also shared with the fire protection district. Who here thinks any of those towns will decrease their tax levy enough to offset this? They honestly can’t – the over all village tax levy is actually about equal to the amount of the district levy. In short – it funds the fire department the way it should be funded by the village, but outside of the village’s control. In fact, there are some home owners on the west side of the village paying upwards of 900/yr in fire protection district tax alone. And that money is turned over to the Village of Carpentersville to help it fund it’s fire department services – that are now cut.
When it comes to the public safety services, there are already inter-governmental agreements for police and fire which dictate that towns help each other out in the events of large incidents or multiple incidents. The police organization is called NIPAS (Northern Illinois Police Alarm System), and it sends officers to other towns to assist when events are larger than the town is capable of handling on its own. The fire organization is called MABAS (Mutual Aid Box Alarm System.) MABAS is designed to be used in the same way – when something happens in our town that depletes our resources. Both of these intergovernmental agreement systems are designed to help in dire situations – not to be used as the “norm” because villages don’t want to properly staff their departments, and aren’t supposed to be used to supplement services. Police incidents such as riots, bomb threats, threats at school etc are some of the types that our public can understand. Structure fires, mass-casualty incidents, hazardous material incidents, etc are some of the uses of the MABAS system. Once again however, these systems aren’t designed to provide resources for typical calls that should be handled by the local municipality.
Fire departments, and to some degree Police Departments also have automatic aid agreements, in which local neighbors help each other out when their vehicles are all assigned to an emergency incident and additional 9-1-1 calls occur. It’s why East Dundee and West Dundee have routinely been in Carpentersville running Carpentersville calls since October 19th. Once again, these agreements aren’t designed to allow any one of the towns to reduce it’s services so the other towns can pick up the slack – it’s a “just in case” insurance policy. It only used to get used every now and then for EMS calls, and most often with Structure Fires.
Because Carpentersville reduced the number of vehicles available to respond to it’s own calls, as we’ve seen nearly every day, it can and does deplete the resources of all our neighbors who now have to respond to Carpentersville resident’s 9-1-1 needs. Where it would sometimes be 3, 4 or 5 simultaneous calls in Carpentersville before the need to activate automatic aid would arise, now the second call activates it. This cascades to East Dundee, West Dundee and Rutland Dundee’s response resources coming to our town, and consequently eliminates those resources for use by the region as a whole – but more importantly for their own individual towns. It also assures that the amount of time it takes emergency responders to get to your home to increase drastically. This game of Russian Roulette will eventually cost someone their life.
Ultimately, while some small cost savings effects could occur as a result of consolidation of Fire and Police department administrative personnel, it’s an uphill battle in overcoming state law and having each village provide the proper amount of resources. Don’t be fooled – consolidation and sharing of resources isn’t as easy or applicable as the public is lead to believe. And the systems in place aren’t supposed to be used to help a neglectful neighbor out – they are designed for disaster and major incidents. Tell your trustees to get it straight, get the facts and fund our Public Safety the way it should.