Barrington, fire district won’t swap roles

Though Barrington village officials have been discussing ways to save money on fire services, a recent proposal to flip-flop their contractual relationship with the Barrington Countryside Fire Protection District apparently is no longer on the table.

Under the proposed change, the fire district — which serves a 40+-square-mile area around the village of Barrington — would become the contractor and the village its customer. Currently, the district contracts with the village’s fire department to provide fire protection services to its residents.

Barrington Village President Karen Darch said the proposal wasn’t meant solely as a cost-cutting measure. Rather, the village hopes to find greater efficiencies through the use of technology, mutual-aid agreements and a more strategic deployment of equipment on calls, she said.

Darch added that she couldn’t discuss any personnel issues, including whether layoffs were a possibility.

Discussions about changing the village’s contractual relationship with the fire district took place recently, officials confirmed this week.

“They wanted us to assume responsibility for being the employer,” fire district Trustee Paul Heinze said. The village also requested that it be billed on a monthly basis only for the services it actually used, Heinze added.

District trustees concluded such financial arrangement wouldn’t work for them, he said.

“We would have considered it if the village had agreed to be a part of our taxing district,” he said. “They refused.”

During the recent talks, the village told the fire district that fire operations made up 42 percent of the village’s budget, Heinze said.

But under the current contract, the fire district pays 62 percent of that to provide staff and equipment needed for its jurisdiction, which includes all or parts of Barrington Hills, Inverness, Lake Barrington, North Barrington, South Barrington and unincorporated Cook, Lake and McHenry counties, he added.

Barrington village officials approved their 2012 budget Monday with no significant change to services, but a commitment to find greater savings in the operation of the Barrington Fire Department.

Village Manager Jeff Lawler said the fire department has so far escaped the layoffs and other personnel reductions that have affected most other departments the past few years.

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