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Article posted: 6/17/2013 9:53 PM

Barrington fire district opens bids for contractors

Five firms applied for job

By Eric Peterson

The Barrington Countryside Fire Protection District Monday took another major step in its journey to independence by opening bids from private firefighter-paramedic firms to replace its contract for service from the Barrington Fire Department in 2014.

But district trustees took no action to approve any of the five Chicago-area firms that applied for the job, and said it was too early to know how their annual costs might be affected by such a change.

Each firm bid on annual costs over three years. Bids for the first year ranged from $2.6 million to $3.9 million.

Each bid was for personnel alone. The district already has stations in Barrington Hills and Lake Barrington, and expects to divide the vehicles it co-owns with the village of Barrington between the two taxing bodies later this year.

The district's consultant, Illinois Fire Chiefs Association Executive Director Robert Buhs, said the district is closely adhering to the timeline for the transition which was laid out in January. A list of 127 tasks is being systematically checked off, including hiring an interim administrator in July.

Buhs said he was recently contacted by Barrington about the possibility of signing an automatic-aid agreement in which both agencies would respond to each other's calls based on proximity.

District trustees appeared both bemused and amused by this as they considered their communication with the village to be lacking.

"It appears (Barrington officials are) doing the agreement and then giving it to us to sign, which seems very unrealistic," district Trustee Tom Long said.

Fellow Trustee Paul Heinze suggested it could be made No. 128 on the district's priority list.

Residents and Barrington union firefighters at the district's meeting expressed concern about the hiring of private contract firms for the district, saying such firms usually attract inexperienced firefighters who want to move on to union jobs elsewhere as soon as possible.

Buhs agreed that these often are characteristics of private-contract firefighters, but that the district has no other choice in its desire to increase its personnel levels -- something the village has denied permission for under their current contract.

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