Wauconda police chief not taking sides in dispatch center fight

Wauconda Police Chief Patrick Yost isn't taking sides in the fight over the future of his department's dispatch center.

"I'd like to see all the data," Yost told the Daily Herald in a telephone interview Thursday. "It would be hard for me to make an informed opinion without having seen it all."

Yost will get his wish Tuesday when the village board reviews Village Administrator Doug Maxeiner's proposal to shut down the 911 center and contract for the service with Lake Zurich.

The move would cost 10 full-time and two part-time dispatchers their jobs and would mothball a high-tech center that was overhauled less than three years ago.

It also would force the Wauconda Fire Protection District and the Tower Lakes and Lakemoor police departments - all of which use Wauconda's dispatchers - to find new services.

Maxeiner proposed outsourcing as a way to save the village money. The village faces a deficit within a few years if officials don't cut spending, he said during a board meeting Tuesday night.

Yost understood the financial motivation behind the proposal.

"It's always true that we need to save money wherever we can," he said.

But he also acknowledged a dozen of his employees would be out of work if the center closes.

"Any way you slice it, there is an emotional component of that," Yost said.

The community has rallied behind the dispatchers, opposing the proposed move on social media and in person at Tuesday's board meeting. Some residents staged a sit-in last weekend at the police station.

The dispatchers are members of a labor union, and they've been working without a contract since April 2013.

Village officials have to come to terms with how the quality of service could change following a transition to Lake Zurich's service, said Pete Balderas, a field representative with the Illinois Federation of Police labor council. which represents the dispatchers.

"We're concerned about officer safety," Balderas said, adding that employees losing their jobs also is a worry.

Many residents have blamed Mayor Frank Bart for pushing outsourcing as an option. Bart expressed a desire to reduce the village's budget when he ran for office last year and took particular aim at the police department, saying salaries were too high and "unsustainable" and "out of control."

Bart has said the decision to outsource lies with the six trustees.

Yost hadn't spoken publicly about the proposal before Thursday's interview. He was disappointed some people in the community have presumed to know his opinion on the controversial issue.

"I don't think it's fair for anyone to assume what another person is thinking without the benefit of having asked them," he said.

Yost was promoted to interim chief last summer after Bart forced Douglas Larsson out as the town's top cop. Bart has never asked the board to approve Yost's appointment and has said he won't bring it to the board for a vote.

Yost said he's frustrated some people think outsourcing is a done deal, even though the board hasn't debated the issue or voted yet.

"That's putting the cart before the horse," he said.

In a separate interview Thursday, Bart said Yost is being "objective" about the proposal.

"And that's what I'm asking everybody to be," Bart said.

Tuesday's village board meeting is set for 7:15 p.m. at Wauconda High School, 555 N. Main St. The meeting will be at the school because a large crowd is expected.

Bart promised officials will "present the big picture" about the dispatchers during the discussion. He didn't elaborate.

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