Hanover Park, Bloomingdale fire in talks over boundary deal

Hanover Park officials are in the early stages of negotiations with the neighboring Bloomingdale Fire Protection District to transfer a largely industrial area - and the tax revenue it generates - into the village's fire jurisdiction.

Both sides are determining the potential boundaries and the impact on their bottom lines.

"You just can't come in and take a bunch of tax dollars from another taxing body because they've made decisions based on that revenue," Hanover Park Fire Chief Craig Haigh said.

As Bloomingdale weathers falling property values, the proposal is a "hot-button issue" because of the potential burden on the district, said Tim Deutschle, treasurer of the board of trustees.

"I'm not saying that would necessarily render us in financial difficulty, but it is something that we have to take seriously," Deutschle said. " ... We have to make sure it isn't detrimental to the rest of the district."

The exact amount of revenue at stake was not known Monday, but if both sides agree, officials could phase out the tax dollars, so Bloomingdale isn't hit with a loss all at once. Haigh expects no effect on manpower or apparatus for either agency.

Bloomingdale Fire Chief Jeff Janus said the overriding goal is to ensure that residents are protected.

"We're always looking at ways to operate more effectively and efficiently," he added.

If talks break down, a dispute could end up in court, Deutschle said.

However, Haigh said Hanover Park only is interested in a voluntary exchange and has no plans to launch legal proceedings, in which the village would have to prove in court that its fire department could serve the properties better than Bloomingdale.

"We as a village have no desire to litigate," he said.

The district and Hanover Park instead have tasked their fire chiefs to broker a solution.

The coveted areas surround two intersections: Gary Avenue and Lake Street, and County Farm and Schick roads. The land has long been incorporated into the village of Hanover Park.

In 2000, the village formed its own fire department and assumed operations of the defunct Hanover Park Fire Protection District. Since then, officials have reached deals to disconnect land from other fire protection districts that also fall within the municipal boundaries.

The move would boost efficiencies, Haigh said. Hanover Park police and Bloomingdale cover the areas in question - using different radio frequencies.

"Some of the bigger issues that jump out for us is that you get common emergency response," Haigh said. "You're going to get Hanover Park police, Hanover Park fire. We operate as one group at other incidents."

While the volume of emergency calls to the department routinely breaks records - the number is expected to hit nearly 4,000 this year, the chief said - fire losses in dollars have dropped significantly. Haigh attributes the decline to the reorganization.

Folding the areas into Hanover Park's department also would eliminate a "dual inspection process," Haigh said. In 2011, Hanover Park fire took over building inspections previously run out of the village's community development department. The department's inspectors check businesses for village code compliance and review permit requests for new reconstruction, among other jobs.

But business in the areas involved in the negotiations are visited by both Hanover Park and Bloomingdale inspectors, who evaluate them against fire and life safety standards.

"It would be much more efficient if the village was able to take care of the entire thing," Haigh said.

Officials hope to reach a decision by the fall, before the district and the village set their property tax levies.

"We want to take our time and get it right because we have a great fire department providing services over there," Haigh said. "We're not trying to fix a problem. We think it will be more efficient."

  Bloomingdale Fire Protection District leaders say they're willing to listen to Hanover Park's overtures to provide services to an area currently within the district. "We have to make sure it isn't detrimental to the rest of the district," said Tim Deutschle, who sits on the Bloomingdale Fire Protection District's board. Daniel White/, February 2012
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