Currently, an appointed board of trustees is discussing the major issue of consolidating the Rockland Fire Protection District with a neighboring community fire department. While the League of Women Voters of Lake County generally supports consolidation as a way to provide efficient and effective operation, The league primarily supports a transparent process to determine whether consolidation is appropriate. Now is not the time to rush through a decision.
Almost a year ago, the residents of the Rockland Fire Protection District (Knollwood area) overwhelming voted in a binding referendum for an elected board of trustees, not an appointed board. Residents wanted a representative government, with trustees they felt would make decisions based on the residents' best interests. The league strongly supports an open governmental system that is representative, accountable, and responsive.
Additionally, any decision regarding consolidation must be based on a thorough study of the pros and cons. Equally imperative is an open, transparent process that includes public participation.
Some questions to consider, not only for the Rockland District but also for proposing fire departments, such as Lake Forest, Libertyville, etc.:
Will the proposal result in an increased quality and/or efficiency of services, or at a minimum, maintain services at existing levels?
Will the proposal result in projected cost savings and a positive effect on taxes over the long term?
Will the proposal fairly address disparities in employee contracts?
Are there alternative proposals?
What research has been done with current operations? Any cost analysis?
Consolidation should only be considered once the residents are properly represented by an elected body, and all the facts have been gathered and discussed. The League of Women Voters of Lake County cannot support consolidation at this time.
Jeanne Kearby, Executive Committee
League of Women Voters of Lake County