Rutland-Dundee fire board member proposes moving firefighters to West Dundee station
A Rutland-Dundee Fire Protection District board member is pushing for better collaboration with area fire entities.
Don Rage, who was appointed to the board in February, wants to explore the possibility of merging the fire district's Sleepy Hollow station with a nearby station belonging to the West Dundee Fire Department.
Only two firefighters are on duty at each station at any given time, Rage said, noting the two stations are less than a mile apart. By moving Rutland-Dundee firefighters from 7 Thorobred Lane to the West Dundee station at 100 Carrington Drive, he said, the crews could share apparatus and improve overall efficiency.
"It's basically just making the economy scale for these small departments benefit everybody," Rage said. "It's something we're slowly evaluating."
In Rage's eyes, that doesn't mean the fire station in Sleepy Hollow would have to be shut down. Instead, he said, it could be used for community events and other fire purposes, such as training crews or storing vehicles and apparatus.
After discussing the idea over the last several months with fire and village leaders, Rage said, officials have yet to move the concept forward. He added it's up to the fire chiefs to research the idea, work out an agreement and decide "how they can best serve the people."
Though the topic has been brought up at a public meeting, Rutland-Dundee Chief Richard Thomas said he hasn't been formally instructed by the fire district board to begin looking into the idea.
The board is made up of three members: Rage, William Carbone and former Chief Rollyn Anderson, whose term is up for reappointment.
"They basically give me direction," Thomas said. "Until I'm given direction to do research one way or the other, there's no comment at this point."
West Dundee Fire Chief Randy Freise, who will also oversee the East Dundee and Countryside Fire Protection District starting next year, welcomed the idea of sharing the station.
"Our responses, in my opinion, would be improved," he said. "I've always made it known that I think it's a good idea. It goes along with the concept of being more efficient."
Thomas said Dundee-area fire entities have already been working together functionally for the past 10 years by sharing training opportunities and following the same standard operating procedures.
Sleepy Hollow Village President Stephan Pickett, however, said he worries the move would result in Rutland-Dundee tax dollars being taken out of the district and used in West Dundee's jurisdiction.
"I have no qualms about reducing duplicate services, but you've got to take a closer look into it," he said. "Without the taxpayers being made aware of it and having some kind of voice in it, it doesn't seem like a fair utilization of our taxpayers' dollars."
But Rage said the Dundee-area fire entities already work under an agreement in which they collaborate when responding to calls. Merging two stations could prompt future consolidation efforts and cost savings, he said.
"We've got to protect people and save their lives. That's what we're charged with doing," Rage said. "This in my layman's mind is a way of protecting the people even more."