Plan to close Wauconda 911 center is on hold for now, village officials say
A controversial plan to close the Wauconda police department's dispatch center and outsource 911 service is on hold, officials said Tuesday, but it's far from scuttled.
Village Administrator Doug Maxeiner has said for months that he's been waiting for answers to unspecified questions about outsourcing. Those answers remain elusive, Maxeiner told the Daily Herald, and as a result the plan is in limbo.
"Moving forward, the village is continuing to evaluate a variety of opportunities for the effective and efficient provision of dispatch operations ... which includes outsourcing as a potential option," Maxeiner said. "However, there is no timeline as to when this information will be available and when the village board will be asked to consider this issue."
A special village board meeting about the outsourcing issue proposed for Sept. 30 likely won't happen, he said.
Maxeiner said he expects to bring a plan to the village board "at some point in the future."
Dispatcher Patty Steffy cheerfully celebrated the development in a post on a Facebook page dedicated to village issues called "Of Wauconda, For Wauconda."
"We are happy to say that there will be no outsourcing in the immediate future," Steffy wrote. "Thank you all for your support."
Mayor Frank Bart, who has championed the outsourcing inquiry, insisted the plan isn't dead. He dismissed Steffy's comments and subsequent posts from residents as rumors on a "hate site."
"We're going to continue to look at it," Bart said. "We could get this information in the next couple months."
Officials now will sit down with the dispatchers' labor union to negotiate a new contract, Bart said. The previous deal expired this past spring.
Wauconda officials proposed mothballing the 911 center shortly after Bart took office in May 2013. Maxeiner took up the charge when he was hired last fall.
But the plan never had the village board's blessing.
"Ultimately, the idea for outsourcing was announced as if it were a done deal, but there was never any thoughtful proposal on the table presented to the board," Trustee Linda Starkey said.
Maxeiner had said closing the 911 center and outsourcing dispatching to Lake Zurich could save $2.1 million over five years.
Four years ago, however, officials vowed to keep 911 services in-house if voters backed a 2010 tax increase for fire-district services.
Voters approved the measure, and about a year later, Wauconda funneled money into upgrades and new technology for the 911 center.
Bart has repeatedly criticized the referendum and that promise.
But many angry residents pointed to that deal during heated and well-attended public discussions in the past year.
Critics of the plan wore red shirts to board meetings to show solidarity with the dispatchers, hung banners backing the employees on their cars in front of village hall and pestered officials with questions about the plan meeting after meeting.
Protesters even staged a sit-in at the police department this past February to support the dispatchers.