The plight of local fire departments is no secret. For the three elections since March 2020, Bourbonnais, Limestone Township and Grant Park fire districts each have sought voter referendums for a tax increase. All three districts told voters they were looking to hire staff, purchase equipment and replace apparatus.
All three times, for all three districts, voters soundly defeated the referendums.
This problem isn’t unique to those districts. Over the next five to 10 years, the residents of Peotone could be forced to choose between tax increases or a diminished level of service from their fire district. Because of that possibility, the Peotone Fire Protection District is pursuing a ballot referendum of its own. But in this case, the district is asking voters in the June 2022 primary election to approve a consolidation with the Manhattan Fire District.
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.
If there’s an opportunity to reduce administrative costs without reducing the fire and emergency services to the residents and businesses of the districts, we think it’s at least worth considering. And that’s what we hope voters in the district do — at least consider it.
We encourage you to reach out to the fire districts and ask questions so that you can develop an informed opinion. Both districts have invited residents to take part in discussions on the proposal. Peotone’s was this morning, but you still have time to attend the event scheduled from 8:30 to 10:30 a.m. Friday at the Manhattan Fire Protection District station, 100 Park Road in Manhattan. You don’t need to register or RSVP. Just show up.
And then, last but not least, vote in the June primary.