LAKE BARRINGTON – Before approving three more automatic-aid agreements Monday, Barrington Countryside Protection District officials said they are, at this point, 86 percent ready for operations independent of the village of Barrington in 2014.
“We are on pace or even ahead of schedule,” BCFPD Chief/Administrator Jeff Swanson said. “We feel very comfortable that there’s nothing keeping us from being operational Jan. 1.”
The remaining 14 percent of action points, as recommended by the Illinois Fire Chiefs Association, require collaboration from other agencies such as the Barrington Fire Department.
Despite a Nov. 4 district announcement that a draft of an automatic-aid agreement between the village and district was being re-written, the district and village have yet to sign a formal contract.
Automatic-aid agreements approved by district trustees Monday include the Algonquin-Lake in the Hills, Carpentersville and East Dundee fire departments.
Hoffman Estates, the city of Palatine, Palatine Rural and the village of Barrington are the only neighboring agencies that have not committed to 2014 automatic-aid with the district, Swanson said.
District President Tom Rowan said that the Hoffman Estates Fire Department would rather perform as a mutual aid partner, responding to a fire when help is requested and manpower is available.
Illinois Fire Chiefs Association Deputy Chief John Feit said that mutual aid is more of a “standard and understood” agreement (without a formal contract), while automatic-aid is contractual and being designed to cover fragments of the district’s 48-square-mile radius as a means of adding more emergency personnel to more areas, more quickly.
Swanson said he is “absolutely sure” the district will receive mutual aid from all neighboring agencies and said automatic-aid discussion will continue, especially with the village of Barrington.
Inverness Ridge resident Kathy Feingold expressed concern with the district being unable to negotiate an automatic-aid agreement with the Palatine Rural Fire Protection District to cover the western border of Inverness.
“You are making decisions as to whether someone lives or dies,” Feingold said. “I suggest you sharpen your pencils and find a way to negotiate. You’re quite literally playing with fire.”
Swanson said the Palatine rural response area will be covered by Lake Zurich Fire Rescue and the district’s personnel from Station 2 (Barrington Hills) under current negotiations.
The BCFPD announced its split from the Barrington Fire Department in September 2012, citing disagreements regarding staffing requirements and equipment purchases – and similar talk continued Monday as district trustee Paul Heinze questioned the village’s unwillingness to allow full-time Barrington Fire Department personnel to work on an additional, part-time basis for the district in 2014.
In response to Heinze, Barrington Fire Chief Jim Arie cited the village’s need to balance overtime, and liability worries for future injuries incurred if village employees were to increase their work activity.
The district now has about six weeks until it splits – operating as an independent department for the first time in decades – and board discussion of an additional district station continues. Trustees have said this third station construction would not begin until the district is up and running independently and operations are analyzed.
The next regular BCFPD board meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Dec. 16. at District Headquarters, 22222 N. Pepper Road in Lake Barrington. Visit www.bcfpd.org for more information.