3 Dundee-area fire entities exploring 'functional' consolidation
Though an actual merger is not yet feasible for three local fire operations, officials are exploring ways to collaborate, improve services and save money.
Earlier this year, West Dundee and Carpentersville fire departments and the East Dundee Fire Protection District participated in an Emergency Service Cooperative Efforts Study, which determined that consolidation was a viable option to improve efficiencies.
But West Dundee Fire Chief Randy Freise told the village board last week that legally merging into one entity is not yet realistic. Referendums, court appearances and several other legal "hurdles to jump through" would come into play if the departments were to pursue full consolidation under current state law, he said.
"We're going to explore every option to make this happen," Carpentersville Fire Chief John Skillman said. "It's doable. We just need to keep moving forward."
Fire officials have instead taken a different approach by "breaking down the elements of consolidation into manageable parts" while maintaining three separate entities, according to an executive summary from the fire chiefs.
For example, a sole training officer who oversees a consolidated training program would ensure that all firefighters are on the same page when responding to calls in the area, Freise said.
Other goals include adopting a shared capital replacement program; standardizing computer, software and data collection; collaborating on uniform fire prevention and life safety education programs; and purchasing equipment in bulk.
"The will is still there to make everything happen," Carpentersville Deputy Chief Kevin Rynders "We're just going about it in a different way."
The fire chiefs also suggested creating 13 work groups comprising individuals from each department and municipality to analyze funding and possible outcomes for each goal.
"I think it's a great step, especially if we're keeping our eyes toward potentially a more direct consolidation down the road," West Dundee Village President Chris Nelson said.
The Rutland-Dundee Township Fire Protection District has expressed interest in joining the consolidation efforts, too, the executive summary says.
In the meantime, fire chiefs are hoping legislators at the state level will make consolidation easier. Skillman said they will discuss some of the "significant roadblocks" at a meeting scheduled Friday with State Sen. Karen McConnaughay.
All three governing boards agreed to move forward with the plans.
"I'm glad to see that nobody yet appears to be afraid of the red tape and obstacles that are placed in front of a challenge like that," Carpentersville Trustee Kevin Rehberg said. "I'm glad to be a part of it and see that level of cooperation happening."