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updated: 5/22/2013 6:09 PM

Barrington, fire district both prepared for split

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Barrington village officials remain far from convinced that their long-running relationship with the Barrington Countryside Fire Protection District will end on New Year's Eve.

But if it does, the directions for a smooth transition for both agencies already are laid out clearly in their current intergovernmental agreement, Barrington Village Manager Jeff Lawler said Wednesday.

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The village runs the Barrington Fire Department to provide fire protection and emergency services within its borders. But for decades, the fire district -- a separate taxing body -- has contracted with the village to provide firefighter/paramedics for areas outside the border, including portions of Barrington Hills, Inverness, Lake Barrington, South Barrington and unincorporated Cook, Lake and McHenry counties.

Last fall, the fire district gave notice that it wants to end the relationship Dec. 31, 2013 out of frustration that the village hasn't allowed it to add staff and purchase additional equipment -- even at the district's own expense.

Both Lawler and Barrington Village President Karen Darch believe there's still time to negotiate a new contract. But if the split does happen, there's no reason to believe a hardship would ensue for either agency, Lawler said.

"If this were to happen, I think there is enough time to prepare for this," he said.

The village would keep Fire Station 1 on Northwest Highway, and the district would keep Station 2 in Barrington Hills and Station 3 in Lake Barrington.

While both agencies own some of their own equipment outright, the equipment they co-own would be fairly divided by a process that begins with a coin flip.

The district has already begun sending out requests for proposals for 33 employees from a chief on down.

The village would have to lay off its excess employees after a split. Its union contract states that the cuts would be determined by seniority, Lawler said.

There's a provision that the fire district could grant preferred hiring status to those about to be laid off by the village. But that clause would not be able to be invoked until a split becomes more inevitable than it is now, Lawler said.

Such specifics over a hypothetical split were gradually added to the intergovernmental agreement in recent years as it began to seem more likely, Lawler said.

While both sides are attempting to foresee all possible issues, there may still be some bumps in the road, he conceded.

"Obviously there are unknowns, because we've never done this," Lawler said.

Unlike the village, fire district officials insist the point of no return is already past. They plan to hire an interim administrator next month from among five candidates identified by the Illinois Fire Chiefs Association.

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