St. Charles likely to extend fire services to some unincorporated residents
The St. Charles Fire Department could begin serving a group of homes outside the city limits after residents expressed concerns over their fire district's lengthy response times.
Under a proposed one-year contract, roughly 50 properties in an unincorporated area off Kautz Road would receive primary fire and emergency medical services from the city's fire department and the Tri-City Ambulance agency starting May 1. Those houses currently are served by the Fox River & Countryside Fire/Rescue District.
The fire district's closest station is off Route 25 -- about seven miles and more than 10 minutes away from that cluster of homes. Fox River & Countryside Chief John Nixon said residents approached fire district officials about six months ago and requested they instead be served by the city, which has a fire station roughly two miles away on Production Drive.
The area previously was covered by the city's fire services before the separate fire district was created.
"I'm thinking the residents will feel better about the agreement," Nixon said. "The fire district wants to make sure the residents have the level of service they want."
The contract developed out of several months of discussions between the two fire entities, St. Charles Fire Chief Joe Schelstreet said. It has been approved by the Fox River & Countryside board, as well as Tri-City Ambulance, and is up for a vote next week by the St. Charles city council.
Aldermen already expressed support for the deal during a committee meeting Monday, saying they believe the area will be better served by the city.
"There's a distance for them to get there. The time is extremely long, and they are our neighbors," Alderman William Turner said. "I think this is something we should approve."
The agreement covers properties off Kautz Road, as well as Denny Drive and Toni and Bonnie streets. Fox River & Countryside will reimburse the city for the property tax dollars collected within that area -- an estimated $6,000 annually, Schelstreet said.
The area averages two to three calls per year, he added, noting the fire department won't feel a significant impact from the deal.
The contract was limited to one year with no extension option so the fire entities could "test it out and see how it's going to work," Nixon said.
Fox River & Countryside is seeking a property tax rate increase through a binding referendum question on the April 2 ballot. Should that request pass, Turner said, the trial period protects the city from any potential changes that may be implemented by the fire district.
"There's a lot in the air, here," he said.
However, Nixon said additional tax dollars won't change the distance between the Kautz Road area and the nearest Fox River & Countryside station. "I don't see it changing anything in the immediate future," he said.
Schelstreet said the fire entities hope to maintain open discussions and "continually improve (their) relationship."