The DuPage County Board took two steps toward consolidation during its Tuesday meeting, voting to formally dissolve a fire district in Downers Grove and to examine two agencies for possible downsizing.
The board unanimously chose to move forward in dissolving the Fairview Fire Protection District.
The act marks the first-time use of a piece of landmark legislation allowing DuPage County to dissolve a county-appointed government agency deemed outdated, defunct or redundant. The law, signed in August 2013 by Gov. Pat Quinn, could mean the end of a number of mosquito abatement, sanitary and fire protection districts.
"The rest of the state is watching, and we're utilizing the tool, the law that the legislature and the governor gave us, and I think we can be proud of what we accomplished here today," said Board Chairman Dan Cronin.
The Fairview District does not own fire equipment or employ staff, but levied an annual property tax and has an agreement with the village of Downers Grove to provide emergency response services to 187 parcels of property.
The district owes more than $100,000 to the village, according to an assessment prompted by the DuPage County Board, which determined that, due to tax caps, it would not be able to resolve the unpaid obligation without a referendum to seek additional money.
Downers Grove agreed to waive the debt, and the county created a Special Service Area for the parcels to cut out the middle man. Fairview Fire Protection District will be completely dissolved after 150 days, according to the ordinance.
An objecting party can still file a petition with at least 25 signatures requesting the dissolution be submitted to referendum for the November ballot.
Cronin said he doubts a referendum will occur because of the diligent research and communication on the project.
The board also voted to hire Christopher B. Burke Engineering for $69,496.85 to assess eliminating or absorbing two sanitary districts on its 13-agency list of targets – Highland Hills of Lombard and Salt Creek of Villa Park.
Both are identified as having financial issues that present long-term concerns to the county in a 2012 report from consultant Crowe Horwath. Salt Creek would likely need "significant capital improvements," the report stated, and Highland Hills is mired in structural financial debt.
The consultant recommended the county look at consolidating or sharing services with another entity.