Wauconda residents urge board to keep 911 center
More than 100 people packed Wauconda's village hall Tuesday to protest a plan to close the police department's 911 center and outsource the service.
The issue wasn't on the agenda for the night's village board meeting, so people spoke up during a public-comment section of the meeting. They went on for nearly 90 minutes.
Many talked about the value of having local dispatchers who know Wauconda and the officers who work in town. One dispatcher talked about working in the 911 center.
Several told personal and often emotional stories about having to call 911.
And they all objected to outsourcing, which has been proposed as a cost-savings move.
"I understand you're trying to save money, but how much is my life worth?" resident Candy Powers said.
"Why aren't we looking at budget cuts in other areas? Why are we targeting 911?" resident Zoya Dehaan said later in the session.
The audience was so big that all the chairs in the boardroom were taken, forcing many people to stand along the walls or in an aisle. Some sat on the floor.
Officials had reserved meeting space at nearby Wauconda High School if the crowd got too big, but Mayor Frank Bart didn't move the meeting to the school.
On Friday, Village Administrator Doug Maxeiner publicly released a proposal calling for the dispatch center to be shuttered and for the village to contract for services with nearby Lake Zurich.
The move could save Wauconda about $2.1 million over five years, Maxeiner said in a news release.
If the 911 center closes, 10 full-time and two part-time positions would be eliminated.
The other agencies using the center -- Wauconda Fire Protection District and Tower Lakes and Lakemoor police departments -- also would need to find new dispatchers.
Several of the audience members criticized Bart for his role in the controversy. One called for him to resign.
The mayor didn't respond to that comment.
Another resident suggested the board put a referendum on a future ballot that would ask residents to approve a tax-rate increase to pay for 911 services. Bart didn't respond to that comment, either.
But he did reply to several other residents, and he said many of their questions and concerns could be addressed next week when Maxeiner formally presents his proposal to the board.
That session is set for 7 p.m. Feb. 25. The board could vote on the plan in March.
In an interview before Tuesday's meeting, Maxeiner said he was "a little bit surprised" by the public's reaction to the outsourcing proposal.
"I think that's just an indicator that I haven't handled the flow of information well enough," he said.
Maxeiner was hired as the town's top administrator in October. Looking into outsourcing 911 services was on a list of projects the village board and Bart had for him when he started work the following month, he said.