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updated: 4/10/2018 4:53 PM

DuPage starts process to disband 'paper' fire district

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A "paper" district that acts solely to collect taxes to pay for fire and ambulance services for an unincorporated area near Westmont will become the fifth unit of local government to be disbanded by DuPage County.

County board members on Tuesday agreed to begin the process of dissolving the North Westmont Fire Protection District. Once the dissolution is complete, the district's roughly 4,000 residents will continue to get service from the Westmont Fire Department.

As a paper district, North Westmont doesn't have a fire station, equipment or personnel. Instead, the district collects property taxes from the owners of 561 parcels and uses the money to pay the village of Westmont to provide emergency response and fire services.

Now, through an agreement with Westmont, district residents will pay the village through a newly created special service area. The area is bordered by Westmont to the east and south, Downers Grove to the west and Oak Brook to the north.

County board Chairman Dan Cronin said the agreement will eliminate North Westmont's annual tax levy and forgive its debt, which totals $300,000.

"I commend the village and fire district representatives who pursued change and developed a fair and equitable solution benefiting all," Cronin said. He said North Westmont is the latest in a string dissolutions sought by the county.

In 2013, a state law change gave DuPage the power to eliminate North Westmont and 12 other local government entities. The county has since dissolved the Timberlake Estates Sanitary District, the DuPage Fair and Exposition Authority, the Fairview Fire Protection District, and the Century Hill Street Lighting District.

The push to disband the fire protection district began when a 2016 survey found most of the district's residents supported the idea.

In June 2017, the county board gave Westmont permission to establish the special service area "to provide a fair and equitable rate for fire services for all residents," officials said. The village approved the proposal in December, and the county clerk established the SSA in February.

Joe Rada, a trustee on the fire protection district board, said the panel supports the change. "Our hopes are that the implementation of the SSA continues to move forward smoothly," he said.

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