Fire consolidation study OK'd by 2 out of 3 Fox entities

The yearslong discussion about consolidating fire services among three Fox Valley entities is poised to take a huge leap forward.

The villages of West Dundee and Carpentersville have approved paying for a consolidation study to be performed by Oregon-based Emergency Services Consulting International, officials said.

The East Dundee Fire Protection District — whose officials did not respond to requests for comment — is expected to consider that when its board of trustees meets Monday.

“This is very historic. We've never gotten this far before,” West Dundee Fire Chief Randy Freise said. “We requested proposals in the past, but we've never actually done a study.”

The study would cost $33,678, including an optional residents' input meeting, so each entity would pay for one-third, or $11,226, Freise said.

The West Dundee village board gave the OK to the expense this week.

Carpentersville Village Manager Mark Rooney also approved the expense, which doesn't need village board approval because it's less than $20,000, said Carpentersville Deputy Fire Chief John Skillman.

The study would take four to six months to be completed, Freise said. The residents' meeting would take place toward the end of the process, he said.

The study would look at a range of possibilities, including different levels of consolidation, Freise said.

The goal is to improve service levels with an eye toward saving taxpayers' money, Freise and Skillman said. If consolidation is the way to go, it would take a few years to make that happen.

“There's no guarantee that the study is going to conclude we should consolidate,” Freise said.

If that's the case, the study will be a valuable self-evaluation tool for the fire departments, Skillman said.

“It will help us improve on our strategic planning and succession planning for our departments, for the future of our departments,” he said.

The West Dundee Fire Department employs 10 full-time and nearly 30 part-time firefighters, Freise said. The East Dundee Fire District is similar in size, he said.

The Carpentersville Fire Department employees 32 full-time and 30 part-time firefighters, Skillman said.

Firefighters don't typically lose their jobs when fire departments consolidate, Freise and Skillman said.

“I think there's quite a bit of support for it (among firefighters),” Freise said. “Any time you introduce change, there's going to be some apprehension, but I think they're interested in seeing how we can improve service.”

Any loss of personnel due to consolidation is usually among upper management, and only through attrition, Skillman said. “It's not a concern for anybody,” he said.

The Rutland-Dundee Township Fire Protection District, which shares an automatic aid agreement with East Dundee, West Dundee and Carpentersville, opted not to take part in the consolidation study, officials said.

Rutland-Dundee Fire Chief Rick Thomas did not respond to a request for comment.

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