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Article posted: 10/8/2013 4:45 PM

Inverness mayor continues push for fire district deal

Jack Tatooles

Jack Tatooles

 
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Inverness Village President Jack Tatooles continues to urge Barrington Countryside Fire Protection District trustees to pursue an agreement allowing the Palatine Rural Fire Protection District to cover the west side of his village.

But both fire districts remain skeptical they can overcome financial differences to reach a deal.

"I don't think this is going to be negotiated," Palatine Rural President Glen Grosch said Tuesday. "I think this is going to be left as is or changed by a referendum."

Grosch said that he as a board member he can't change fire district boundaries, but that citizen-driven referendums sometimes can.

Tatooles made his push Tuesday as Barrington Countryside trustees Paul Heinze and Marvin Hill held an informational meeting with community leaders to explain the impacts of the district's Jan. 1 split from the Barrington Fire Department.

Questions from Lake Barrington, South Barrington and Barrington Township officials about staffing levels and the impact of passing trains on response times weren't as pointed as Tatooles' on his desired agreement between the two fire protection districts.

Under the proposed agreement, the fire districts would respond to emergency calls within one another's boundaries if they have the closer station. Tatooles said Palatine Rural's station is only 1.5 miles from the west side of Inverness, while Barrington Countryside's Station 2 in Barrington Hills is 5 miles away and Station 3 in Lake Barrington is 7 miles away.

"For the sake of the residents, Palatine Rural is in a better position to cover that part of Inverness than your Station 2 or Station 3," Tatooles told Heinze and Hill. "Let's do something and take care of the people and the taxpayers. Do we have to wait for a tragedy to get your attention?"

The likelihood of an automatic-aid agreement appears contingent on the working out of a dispute over how much property tax money Palatine Rural would get from it.

Grosch said Palatine Rural has rejected a paid-on-call arrangement and is looking for "a large share" of Barrington Countryside's property taxes from that part of Inverness.

Palatine Rural pays the Palatine and Rolling Meadows fire departments for similar coverage of distant corners of its own district, Grosch said. The agreement it seeks with Barrington Countryside would mirror those arrangements but no precise dollar amounts have been filled in, he added.

Heinze said Barrington Countryside won't give up anywhere near as much of its tax revenue as Palatine Rural is seeking. He believes an analysis of call responses will show that Barrington Countryside personnel have historically responded to the west side of Inverness just as quickly as Palatine Rural.

Barrington Countryside is currently collecting and analyzing records of such calls -- approximately 100 per year -- from 2008 to the present.

Grosch said Barrington Countryside has already taken twice as long to collect that data as it said it needed in September.

Barrington Countryside is separating from the Barrington Fire Department at year's end over long-running disagreements over proper staffing and equipment levels. Because of the separation, the Barrington Fire Department will lay off 19 firefighters -- 17 of whom have applied and been accepted to work for Barrington Countryside at their current salaries.

They will join a total workforce of 33 full-time firefighters, with the remainder to be provided at a likely lower rate by private contractor Paramedic Services of Illinois, to cover the 48-square-mile fire district.

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