New trustee joins Barrington-area fire district

In the midst of the Barrington Countryside Fire Protection District’s biggest year of change, former Lake Barrington trustee Paul Struck will succeed Walter Dalitsch on the fire district board Monday evening.

Struck’s appointment by District 17 Lake County Board Member Nick Sauer was approved by the rest of the county board this week.

Sauer said he views Struck as representative of a new generation of leadership in the Barrington area, intent on seeing the entire community working more collaboratively.

“He’s a good man; he’s a good public servant,” Sauer said of Struck. “He’s someone I trust.”

Struck’s succession of Dalitsch comes barely three months before the fire district plans to operate as an independent fire department for the first time, ending its contract for service from the village of Barrington on Jan. 1.

“There’s definitely some challenge there,” Struck said of the timing of his appointment. “We’re already into September, but I think there’s still enough time to make those important decisions.”

Struck added that he comes to the board with no preconceived opinions about its earlier decisions, but is eager to get to grips with the facts necessary to make the coming decisions on staffing and equipment for the district’s stations in Barrington Hills and Lake Barrington.

“I’m excited at the opportunity,” Struck said.

Sauer said he himself is pleased with the direction the fire district has taken, particularly its decision to go with the personnel of a private contractor — Paramedic Services of Illinois — and to offer jobs to the 19 firefighters laid off by Barrington.

Though opting not to reappoint Dalitsch, Sauer had praise for his service to the fire district and community.

“Walter was a very good public servant and served the community well,” Sauer said.

Dalitsch said he learned only recently that he would not be reappointed, having expected to see the fire district through the coming transition. He praised the work of his four colleagues on the board, and said he feels a big job lies ahead for his successor.

But Dalitsch reserved his criticism for the village of Barrington, which he feels is responsible for the decision the fire district had to make to separate by not granting requests for additional equipment and personnel. He felt the village and the 48-square-mile fire district just outside it would have been better served by one unified department.

“I think the actions of the village of Barrington have been wrongheaded and stupid, stupid, stupid,” Dalitsch said. “It just flies in the face of common sense. I think the fire district will come out well.”

Sauer said he believes Barrington and the fire district simply developed different priorities in their operations that prevented them being able to continue their long-running collaboration.

Barrington officials have said they could not continue to risk the disability liability for being the primary employer of so many more firefighters than the village itself needs.

As Lake County’s District 17 board member, Sauer is responsible for appointing the fire district seats now held by Struck and current board President Tom Rowan. The district’s other three trustees, from Cook County, are appointed by the Barrington Township board.

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