Antioch voters will elect fire board for first time

 
 
Updated 2/19/2017 4:15 PM
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  • Antioch voters will choose their first publicly elected fire board when they go to the polls April 4.

      Antioch voters will choose their first publicly elected fire board when they go to the polls April 4. Gilbert R. Boucher II | Staff Photographer, 2016

Voters in Antioch Township will break new ground April 4 when they head to the polls to vote for the first elected board members of the First Fire Protection District of Antioch.

Created through a referendum in November, the publicly elected five-member board will replace a three-person board appointed by the Antioch Township supervisor.

The hotly contested race has 14 candidates to fill the five open positions.

Among them are Dean Pedersen, Mathias M. Tabar and Carolyn Van Patten, who currently serve as trustees on the appointed board. Theodore Jozefiak, the fire district administrator, also is running for one of the elected positions.

Brent Bluthardt, James Dalgaard, Thomas Dvorak, Paul Green, Thomas Haley, Steve LaVigna, Clint Ludd, Gary James Quedenfeld, Patrick Walker and Benny Yee, round out the field of candidates.

Jozefiak said he was in favor of the consolidation that merged First Fire with the village of Antioch's fire service, despite knowing it would eliminate his job with the old fire district.

"It was important to combine the two entities into one," Jozefiak said. "The two sides always worked together well, but didn't always agree on every issue in the district."

The voter-backed merger means the village of Antioch and the township no longer have to negotiate contracts to provide fire service in the village. Village property owners are now included in the fire protection district with Antioch Township and pay taxes directly to the fire district.

Previously, the First Fire Protection District of Antioch and its staff of full-time firefighters and paramedics provided services to the village of Antioch and Antioch Township. The Antioch Fire Department provided volunteer firefighters for use by the fire district.

The village paid for the service out of its general fund.

While changes at the fire district were mostly operational, officials said, property owners in Antioch saw their taxes increase about 15 cents per $100 of equalized assessed valuation.

Jon Cokefair, interim fire chief of the First Fire Protection District of Antioch, said the large number of candidates is "primarily because it's fresh, new and an exciting time for the fire district.

"I think they may want to be part of a fresh start for the brand new fire district," he added. "They can come in and make a difference, and contribute to the fresh start we are seeing here."

The biggest challenges facing the new board members will be trying to work within a single balanced budget while keeping up with state-mandated technology upgrades and acceptable service levels, Cokefair said.

"As the pool of part-time personnel drops, we also may want to look at going in a different direction in the way our staffing is structured," he said. "There are definitely some challenges ahead for those elected."

The length of board members' terms won't be decided until after the election. Winners will draw straws to determine how long they'll serve before needing to seek re-election. There will be two six-year terms, two four-year terms, and one two-year term, Cokefair said.

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