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Article updated: 7/25/2013 1:38 PM

Roselle negotiating new fire protection deal

By Robert Sanchez

Money is the sticking point as the village of Roselle and the Roselle Fire Protection District try to negotiate a new contract to ensure continued fire and ambulance service for nearby unincorporated areas.

The existing pact between Roselle and the district is scheduled to expire Dec. 31 and both sides hope to reach an agreement that would take effect Jan. 1.

"We're interested in working with them and getting this resolved," Mayor Gayle Smolinski said. "We have some difference of opinion but, I think, it's absolutely workable."

To understand the negotiations, it's first necessary to understand the Roselle Fire Department and the Roselle Fire Protection District are separate agencies.

The fire department is part of the village and provides services within its boundaries.

The fire protection district is a separate entity that is responsible for 863 parcels in unincorporated areas near Roselle, Bloomingdale, Itasca and Schaumburg.

It's a so-called "paper district" that has no station, no equipment and no firefighters. Instead, it collects property taxes from residents in those unincorporated areas and then pays the Roselle Fire Department to provide fire suppression and other emergency services.

The two sides are negotiating how much the district should pay the village for those services.

Under the current agreement, the amount the district pays for fire and ambulance service is based on the value of its land. District officials, however, say they'd like to take a new approach in which the charges are based on the cost of services they receive.

"We would like to figure out the cost of providing fire protection to the district and base it on that," said Gerald Dietz, the district's attorney.

But Smolinski said village officials fear that could cost them money and place them in the untenable position of subsidizing the fire protection district.

This year, the fire protection district is paying nearly $600,000 to the village. That's about 17 percent of the Roselle Fire Department's total budget.

Smolinski acknowledged failing to reach a new agreement with the district would be "a huge loss" for the village, which already projects its total expenses to exceed its total revenue by roughly $100,000.

Still, she said, the next contract with the district must be "sensible."

"We need to consider what's fair to us and fair to them," she said, "and see if we can get some resolution on it."

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