Wauconda nearing controversial dispatch deal with CenCom

A controversial plan to outsource Wauconda's police dispatch service could move closer to a resolution Tuesday.

Village Administrator Doug Maxeiner will ask trustees to commit to a plan to join CenCom, a 911 call center based in Round Lake Beach that already serves 11 police and fire departments throughout Lake County.

More formal contracts would come later, once details are worked out, Maxeiner said in a memo to trustees and Mayor Frank Bart.

If the deal is approved, Wauconda's high-tech 911 center, which is at the police station, would be mothballed. Eleven employees would be laid off.

"It's unfortunate," said Trustee Ken Arnswald, who formerly opposed outsourcing but has swung the other way. "I don't want anyone to be out of a job."

Wauconda's dispatchers would get preferential consideration if CenCom expands its staff, officials have said.

Tuesday's meeting is set for 7 p.m. at Wauconda High School, 555 N. Main St. The session will be there instead of at village hall because the issue historically has drawn large crowds.

Many Wauconda residents have spent much of the last year protesting outsourcing plans. In recent months, however, outsourcing supporters have begun appearing at meetings and speaking their minds in greater numbers.

Going with CenCom could save Wauconda up to $300,000 annually, Maxeiner said in June. The village's spending is outpacing revenue, and he's voiced concern about future budget deficits.

The consolidation debate ramped up more than a year ago after Bart was elected mayor.

At first, officials primarily talked about outsourcing the service to Lake Zurich. Maxeiner recently changed focus to CenCom because that group could better serve calls for the Wauconda Fire Protection District, which also uses Wauconda's center.

The shift was made concrete in June when the board voted to petition CenCom for membership and to negotiate an agreement for admission.

The Tower Lakes and Lakemoor police departments pay Wauconda to handle their 911 calls, too, and also would be affected if the center shuts down.

From the beginning, Bart has been the most vocal proponent of outsourcing at village hall. He hasn't let up.

"The time to consolidate is now," he said. "We keep this quality public safety service, we save over $300,000 of taxpayer dollars annually, and it gives our displaced employees the preferential opportunity to be hired by CenCom."

The board's decision is influenced by political machinations in Springfield, officials said.

Gov. Bruce Rauner's threatened cuts to local shares of tax revenue has Wauconda officials worried about balancing future budgets. Additionally, state lawmakers have approved legislation that calls for dispatch centers to consolidate significantly in the future.

With those factors in mind, Wauconda's trustees shifted from generally opposing outsourcing to favoring a deal with CenCom.

That includes trustees such as Arnswald, who said they favored keeping the local 911 center during political campaigns earlier this year.

"I still agree with that, but things change," Arnswald said.

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