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Fire district presents 2014 plans to public

BARRINGTON HILLS – As the Barrington Countryside Fire Protection District is finalizing its plans for independent operations, members are reaching out to those whose lives will be most affected – the district's residents.

The village of Barrington Hills' board of trustees and several members of the public heard a presentation from district officials Monday evening. The meeting was intended to be an open forum between the district and residents who wanted more information about the district's split from the village of Barrington's fire department beginning Jan. 1.

In September 2012, the district gave notice to the village of Barrington that it no longer wished to purchase emergency medical and fire services from it through its current intergovernmental agreement, set to expire Dec. 31.

Initiating public conversation Monday evening, fire district trustee Paul Heinze stressed that emergency response times will be a crucial piece of next year's operational plans.

"We need to get to you for every emergency in six minutes or less," Heinze said.

District Chief Jeff Swanson said that in an EMS situation, brain damage occurs in four to six minutes. Swanson added that it takes six to 10 minutes for a fire to spiral out of control before firefighters arrive on the scene.

Since the district serves a total of 46 square miles within the areas of North Barrington, Barrington Hills, South Barrington, Lake Barrington, Inverness, and portions of unincorporated Cook, Lake and McHenry counties, an automatic aid agreement with the Barrington Fire Department was one of the residents' most pressing concerns addressed during Monday's question-and-answer session.

Heinze said that, in short, there will be an automatic aid agreement with the Barrington Fire Department, but added that the scope of that agreement has not yet been defined.

Beginning in January 2014, Swanson said the district will have two full crews of firefighters/paramedics – 11 people minimum and 13 maximum – able to respond to four simultaneous EMS calls from its Barrington Hills and Lake Barrington fire stations, and additional part-time employees will be staffed in conjunction with Fox River Grove.

"Time, water and manpower are really the three ingredients of success," Heinze said.

All district firefighter/paramedics will be employed by Schiller Park-based Paramedic Services of Illinois, but report directly to Swanson at the district's Lake Barrington Headquarters/Fire Station 3. PSI has agreed to hire Barrington firefighters who wish to continue their careers within the area after they lose their jobs through the village in December.

District board President Tom Rowan said PSI will be hiring 17 of the 19 employees furrowed by the village.

Additionally, district trustees have been discussing a possible third station and crew. Barrington Hills president Martin McLaughlin asked what sort of taxes his residents can expect to see with these new services.

"Our projections for personnel cost will actually be less than what we were paying the village" through the intergovernmental agreement, Heinze said. "Plus, we won't be saddled with future pension costs since we are going through PSI."

Heinze said district trustees are paying close attention to costs to keep them down.

The Barrington Countryside Fire Protection District is holding a special public board meeting at Station 3, 22222 North Pepper Road, Lake Barrington at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Nov. 4, to further discuss pending automatic aid agreements.

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