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updated: 9/12/2013 6:10 PM

Palatine Rural ends aid agreements with Barrington fire departments

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Palatine Rural Fire Protection District's board of trustees has voted to terminate its automatic-aid agreement with Barrington Countryside Fire Protection District and the Barrington Fire Department.

Palatine Rural Chief Hank Clemmensen said the move becomes effective Dec. 31, giving all parties ample time to work out "possible" new agreements before Countryside officially splits from Barrington to operate as an independent fire department.

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"We'll need two auto-aid agreements after Jan. 1," Clemmensen said. "Now we can sit down with both agencies to renegotiate."

Clemmensen said he notified both fire chiefs and formal letters are being mailed.

Palatine Rural's vote to end the agreement is somewhat of a formality.

Barrington Fire Chief Jim Arie said the village had already planned to work out a new agreement with Palatine Rural that recognizes the separation from Barrington Countryside.

"That's what we would have intended to do anyway," Arie said. "I don't think it's an issue."

Clemmensen emphasized that any future auto-aid agreement, which is designed to provide immediate initial responses to an emergency by the closest fire station regardless of jurisdiction, would need to be fair and equitable for all sides.

Currently, Palatine Rural's jurisdiction generally covers the eastern two-thirds of Inverness. Western Inverness and north of Dundee, including the area by Ela Road just 1.5 miles north of the Palatine Rural station, are in Countryside's district.

Clemmensen said Palatine Rural responds to those areas with an engine for most calls, essentially subsidizing service. A fee could help make up the difference when there's not much opportunity for reciprocation of service.

"My board doesn't feel we're getting the same return," Clemmensen said. "It's not fair to our residents to support another fire district for daily operations."

A Barrington Countryside spokesman said the district isn't surprised or concerned with the termination, and added that both districts are discussing other options for aid should any be necessary considering the Countryside's increased staffing in 2014.

Clemmensen maintained it would "behoove" residents of western Inverness to have Palatine Rural always respond since its station is closer. However, he said he can't take resources away from his own district's residents.

If a satisfactory auto-aid agreement can't be reached with Barrington Countryside, he said an alternative could be for Palatine Rural to expand its jurisdiction. For that to happen, residents of Barrington Countryside would have to petition for a referendum to annex into Palatine Rural.

Clemmensen said Palatine Rural and Barrington Countryside have met once and will try to hold another meeting by the end of the month. As for the village of Barrington, Clemmensen said the department is located far away and will be extremely busy as of Jan. 1.

"That's not to say we won't come up with auto-aid, but we need to look at ways to provide better service," he said.

Staff writer Eric Peterson contributed to this report.

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