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updated: 2/11/2014 9:24 PM

DuPage starts process to disband fire protection district

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  • Dan Cronin

      Dan Cronin

 
 

Six months after being granted the power to eliminate 13 local government entities, DuPage County is working to disband one of them.

The county board on Tuesday agreed to begin the process to dissolve the Fairview Fire Protection District, which covers an unincorporated area near Downers Grove.

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"This is a momentous occasion," county board Chairman Dan Cronin said before the vote. "It's the first time this new law has been used in the state of Illinois. This is the demonstration of how you go about dissolving units of local government in a responsible and thoughtful way."

Cronin pushed for state legislation after learning how difficult it is to eliminate a taxing body. Some entities, for example, can be dissolved only with voter approval.

The new law, which the governor signed in August, gives DuPage authority to eliminate "duplicative or inefficient county-appointed agencies," officials said.

As a so-called "paper" district, Fairview doesn't own fire equipment or have a staff. It simply collects property taxes from the owners of 187 parcels and uses the money to pay Downers Grove to provide emergency response and fire services.

Instead of continuing that arrangement, Downers Grove has formed a special service area where Fairview residents will pay the village directly for the services they receive. That allowed DuPage to disband the fire protection district.

By law, multiple steps must be completed before Fairview is formally dissolved. The process, which includes finalizing the affairs of the district and a waiting period, is expected to take at least five months.

The change is expected to result in a one-time savings of more than $100,000 total for Fairview taxpayers. That's the amount of money the district owed Downers Grove for unpaid services.

In addition to eliminating the more than $100,000 debt, dissolving Fairview "ensures sustainable fire suppression for years to come," Cronin said.

"People say it's just one (taxing district)," he said. "But if 102 counties across the state of Illinois all were able to eliminate one, that's a significant chunk. We're doing our part. We want to be a model."

The 12 other DuPage taxing bodies eligible for elimination are: Downers Grove Sanitary District, DuPage Airport Authority, DuPage Fair & Exposition Authority, DuPage Housing Authority, Glenbard Fire Protection District, Highland Hills Sanitary District, North Westmont Fire Protection District, Salt Creek Sanitary District, West Chicago Mosquito Abatement District, Wheaton Mosquito Abatement District, Wheaton Sanitary District and Century Hill Street Lighting District.

Cronin said he expects the county board to act to disband several of those entities. "We've got a handful of them that we think we could bring to the board within the next year or so," he said.

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