Antioch fire officials focus on COVID-19 after referendum falls short

Despite a growing call volume, Antioch fire officials will have to make do with existing revenues, as voters Tuesday rejected a tax increase to generate another $1.57 million per year for personnel and building repairs.

With all 16 precincts reporting, unofficial totals - including early and mail ballots - showed 1,905 votes, about 52% of the total, against the measure, and 1,738 in favor.

"It was encouraging. We had a lot of support but we fell a little short," said Fire Chief Jon Cokefair.

The hope was to get the message out during what was expected to be high interest primary election, he said. But turnout well below the expected level may have had a hand in derailing the tax hike question.

"We were disappointed but we trudge on," he added.

Approval would have provided funding for an expected increase in calls, as well as building and personnel needs. Call volume rose 10% from 2017, a trend officials say will continue.

The annual tax bill for a home valued at $200,000 would have increased by $163 if the measure passed.

Three aging fire stations need repairs and improvements including roofs, parking lots, windows, doors and lighting, Cokefair said.

"We find ourselves falling farther and farther behind," he said during the campaign.

On Wednesday, the examination of the result and possible course of future action was not the first order of business.

"As far as looking ahead, I talked with the (fire) board this morning. Right now our focus is on the response to the coronavirus," Cokefair said.

"We'll pick up the referendum ball in a month or two when this all settles down."

The First Fire Protection District of Antioch Township covers 35 miles in the village and unincorporated areas.

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