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updated: 7/15/2013 1:15 PM

Major decisions ahead for Barrington-area fire services

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  • The Barrington Countryside Fire Protection District, which owns this fire station next to Barrington Hills village hall, is expected to make major decisions Monday regarding the end of its contract with the Barrington Fire Department.

       The Barrington Countryside Fire Protection District, which owns this fire station next to Barrington Hills village hall, is expected to make major decisions Monday regarding the end of its contract with the Barrington Fire Department.
    Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

 
 

Monday will be a major milestone in the history of how fire protection and paramedic services are provided in the Barrington area.

For Barrington Countryside Fire Protection District trustees, it holds what may be their most significant meeting ever.

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And it will hardly be a slow day for the Barrington village board, either -- or the firefighters it employs on behalf of both taxing bodies.

The fire district board will meet at 6:30 p.m. at Fire Station 3 in Lake Barrington to hire an interim administrator who will start work almost immediately. The board also is expected to hire a private contractor who will provide all the rest of the staff after the district's contract with Barrington ends Jan. 1 and it establishes its own firefighting force.

Fire district trustees may also discuss asking voters for a tax hike to help provide pensions for firefighter-paramedics at some point in the future, board President Tom Rowan said.

Then, at 8 p.m., the Barrington village board will hear a consultant's report and recommendations on the restructuring of the Barrington Fire Department after it stops providing service to the 48-square-mile fire district outside the village.

Village President Karen Darch said the board will hear consultant Bill Balling's report and vote to place it on file for future discussion, but no changes to the department will be implemented tonight.

Rowan said the fire district initially was looking for an interim administrator who would guide it through only the end of the contract with the village. But the person hired today will likely continue for a while beyond that, he said.

The fire district will ask that laid off Barrington firefighters get preference when it hires its own personnel.

Last month, the village rejected a request from the fire district to lease it 18 firefighters for two more years -- both to save those firefighters' jobs and take advantage of their experience in the area.

Darch said keeping additional firefighters on the village payroll to work for the fire district would create a financial liability for Barrington taxpayers, who would be on the hook for disability payments if any of those firefighters get injured on the job.

The expected split from the district will free the village of approximately $90 million in pension obligations, Darch added.

The firefighters' union has argued that a split will undermine public safety in the area by doing away with the synergy that exists with one united department for the village and fire district.

The fire district includes portions of Barrington Hills, Lake Barrington, South Barrington, Inverness and unincorporated Cook, Lake and McHenry counties.

District officials initiated the split over frustration that the village would not allow them to hire more personnel and equipment -- even at their own expense.

All current equipment is co-owned by the village and fire district and will be divided between them at the end of the year.

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