Barrington hopes to save through new fire protection agreements

Barrington village officials will continue their quest for cost savings in fire service next year by approaching neighboring fire departments and districts about tweaking their mutual-aid agreements.

Specifically, Barrington would like to negotiate what are called “closest-response agreements” that ask departments to take primary responsibility for medical and fire calls closest to their stations, even if the calls come from a different jurisdiction.

It is a change from the more common forms of mutual aid, in which departments simply back up and assist other jurisdictions when needed.

The discussions will take place with the many departments that share a boundary with the Barrington Countryside Fire Protection District, Barrington Village Manager Jeff Lawler said.

The proposed agreements are particularly aimed at covering the more frequent medical calls, in which only one department likely needs to respond. The basis of most existing mutual-aid agreements is that no suburban departments are adequately staffed to single-handedly fight a structure fire.

Though Barrington hasn’t started reaching out to the neighboring departments, a handful contacted by the Daily Herald Wednesday expressed different levels of openness to the idea.

Chief Kevin Rynders of the Algonquin-Lake in the Hills Fire Protection District said his district already has a closest-response agreement with the Huntley Fire Protection District for two small, specific geographic areas. The agreement is intended primarily to improve service and response times, not just save money, Rynders said.

The district would consider requests for similar deals on a case-by-case basis, he added.

Corky Corless, president of the Algonquin-Lake in the Hills Fire Protection District Board, said that because fire services are experiencing higher costs from insurance, fuel and utilities he would be willing to talk with Barrington officials.

“I think there needs to be a new attitude in government,” Corless said. “People can’t tolerate or afford higher taxes.”

Deputy Fire Chief Jon Fessler of the Wauconda Fire Protection District said the district would be willing to at least talk with Barrington.

Others, however, were less open to the proposal.

Lake Zurich Village Administrator Bob Vitas said he hasn’t heard from Barrington, but that his village is satisfied with the current state of fire protection in and around it.

“I would not be willing to say whether it would or would not result in a cost savings and what the effect would be on Lake Zurich,” Vitas said.

Hoffman Estates Village Manager Jim Norris said that Barrington had not yet reached out to his village, and that he would reserve comment on any such request until it does.

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