Fire file

Residents of the Peotone and Manhattan fire protection districts are invited to learn more about the proposed consolidation of the two districts during “Coffee with the Chief” events scheduled for this week.

Steve Malone, who is the chief for both districts, and other members of the command staff will be on hand for the events set for Wednesday and Friday.

Saving taxpayers’ money and providing the level of services residents need and expect are the two stated reasons Peotone trustees plan to ask voters to approve the consolidation with a referendum on the June 2022 primary ballot.

In a recent news release, the districts said without the consolidation, residents in Peotone over the next five to 10 years, would be forced to choose between tax increases or a diminished level of service.

Also, they said, Manhattan’s district will need to determine how to deliver and pay for a consistent level of staffing and coverage amid increasing demand for services as the region’s population — and calls for service — increase.

Already — as Aug. 13, 2020 — the two districts have an agreement in which Manhattan provides a fire chief, deputy chief, battalion chief and administrative staff. According to a press release, that agreement generated approximately $600,000 in cost recovery and savings in its first year.

By continuing and expanding their consolidation efforts, the districts say they will be able to further reduce administrative costs, eliminate duplicative costs and reinvest those dollars into hiring full-time firefighters and paramedics, and upgrade facilities and equipment.

“We’ve been pleased so far with the response that we’ve received from the [Peotone and Manhattan communities] about the potential benefits of consolidation,” Malone said in its latest press release about the proposed merger.

“But we also understand that there are likely residents who want to learn more about what a potential consolidation could mean for emergency fire, rescue and lifesaving services in their community. We’re happy to be on hand and available to answer questions or provide an overview to residents.”

Malone said questions on any other fire-related matters will be addressed at the event as well.

The Peotone event will be from 8:30 to 10:30 a.m. Wednesday at the Peotone Fire Protection District station, 7550 W. Joliet Road in Peotone.

The Manhattan event is scheduled for 8:30 to 10:30 a.m. Friday at the Manhattan Fire Protection District station, 100 Park Road in Manhattan.

No registration or RSVP is required.

Jeff Bonty is a reporter for The Daily Journal. He can be reached at jbonty@daily-journal.com and 815-937-3366.