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updated: 1/10/2011 11:07 PM

Fox River and Countryside fire district closer to naming new 911 provider

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American Emergency Services will almost certainly be the new 911 service provider for the former St. Charles Countryside Fire Protection District.

A citizens advisory committee for the now-named Fox River & Countryside Fire/Rescue department had only positive remarks on the proposal submitted by American Emergency Services. The company most recently lost its only municipal emergency services contract, in Lakewood, Ill., when a fire department near the McHenry County municipality outbid the private company for the contract.

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The advisory committee brought in American Emergency Services and the city of St. Charles for a final round of questions Monday before submitting a report on the proposals to the fire district trustees. Trustees will pick a service provider Wednesday night.

The committee found just about nothing attractive about the city's proposal. The city is the fire district's current 911 services provider. In particular, the kiss of death in the proposal relates to the city's plan to provide services from the city's stations and with the city's equipment.

The fire district just sunk hundreds of thousands of dollars into buying new fire apparatus and renovations for new fire stations within the district itself. All that cash would essentially be a waste of money if the fire district went with the city's proposal.

But the city believes it could actually provide better response times to at least 50 percent of the fire district by operating out of the city's stations.

A short study the city conducted indicated the fire district is merely redistributing the current problem of long response times to other areas of the district with the two new stations it wants to open. And the city can't provide the manpower to staff both its stations and the district's stations right now.

St. Charles Fire Chief Patrick Mullen told the committee that with only three weeks to respond to the request for 911 services proposals, there was no way the city could commit to hiring new employees to operate out of the fire district's stations.

"The budget process itself takes almost six months," Mullen said.

The committee also said the city's proposal represents services that are even less than the status quo contained in the current contract. For instance, the new proposal would eliminate any influence or voting power the district has with the Tri-Cities Ambulance Service, which currently provides paramedic services to the fire district.

"The city's (proposal) does not meet the spirit of what the fire district wants to accomplish," was one suggested line in the report being drafted by the committee.

As for American Emergency Services, there is at least one catch in the proposal. The price tag, which has not yet been made public, is good for only one year. The company wants to use the initial year of service to create a baseline price that could either increase or decrease in the remaining four years of the contract.

"You never really know what it's going to cost until you've done it for a year," said Gary Jensen, owner of American Emergency Services. "At the end of one year we would sit down with the board and discuss where the contract needs to go."

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