Four years ago negotiations broke down between the City of Crystal Lake and the Village of Lakewood concerning fire protection.
Crystal Lake officials insisted that Lakewood residents pay an amount calculated by using the tax rate Crystal Lake residents pay.
Sounds reasonable, doesn’t it?
The problem was that, with projected increases, most of Lakewood’s budget would be eaten up by providing fire protection in the foreseeable future.
Because there were other essential services–police protection and snow removal come to mind–a more economical approach was sought.
And, one was found by contracting with Gary Jensen’ American Emergency Service Corporation.
And Crystal Lake officials, seemingly not understanding the concept of marginal income and marginal expense, lost about a half a million a year in revenue which most assuredly did not cost that much in expenses.
Here's the unostentatious Lakewood Fire Station.
The privatized bargain resulted in Lakewood having its own fire station (nothing that looks like a traditional fire station, but serviceable) and ownership of the fire equipment.
Now, after shopping around, Lakewood officials are on the verge of contracting with the Woodstock Fire Protection District for the five years beginning on January 1st.
Because there is one year left in the contract with Jensen’s firm, there will be some kind of a buyout. I would imagine that there would still be less total outlay than if the switch to Woodstock were not made.
I got an email from a fireman last night which expressed fears that all would lose their jobs.
According to the letter below, that is not automatically to be the case. I’m told supervisory personnel will not be officer positions in Woodstock, but regular firemen will have the chance to take the entry level test and, if successful, would be hired by Woodstock.
Because Woodstock is a union shop, anyone hired would undoubtedly be required to join.
But with Woodstock FPD employment would probably come better fringe benefits than are now offered.
The letter below from Village President Erin Smith says Lakewood residents will notice no differences.
The fire trucks will still have “Lakewood Fire Department” painted on their sides. The equipment will still be housed on Haligus Road.
RE: Lakewood Fire Department
Approximately four years ago, you received a letter from Village President Julie Richardson and the Board of Trustees regarding the creation of the Lakewood Fire Department. This announcement was the culmination of many months of study and discussion.
At midnight on January 1, 2007 the Lakewood Fire Department began to provide services to our residents. It was a proud and historic day for our community.
As you may recall from the original letter, the fire protection and paramedic services of the Lakewood Fire Department are being provided by American Emergency Services (AES). Under this business model, the Village of Lakewood owns the Fire Station on Haligus Road and all of the fire equipment.
A contractor provides the oversight and personnel for the daily operations. AES has acted with the utmost professionalism, and we will forever owe Gary Jensen a debt of gratitude for his pivotal role in the creation of the Lakewood Fire Department.
From the beginning of this endeavor, we contemplated that the contractual relationship would be reviewed periodically to ensure that the services were being provided in the most effective and cost efficient manner possible.
At this time, we have determined that the Woodstock Fire/Rescue District (WFRD) is best able to provide these services.
This is in no way a reflection of the quality of services being provided by AES. The WFRD simply has economies of scale that are not available to AES.
As proposed, the current firefighters and paramedics (not the supervisory staff) will keep their jobs and will be eligible to apply for full-time positions with the WFRD during the next testing cycle. For our residents, this transition will be seamless.
A Lakewood Fire Truck on Lake Avenue at Gate 10.
If emergency services are needed, a call will be made to 911 and a Lakewood Fire Department engine and ambulance will be dispatched to the scene. All parties are working towards a January 1, 2011 effective date.The WFRD will begin its formal deliberations of this proposal this week, and our Board of Trustees will consider the intergovernmental agreement at our meeting on December 14.
As always, please do not hesitate to contact me if you have questions regarding the changes at the Lakewood Fire Department.
Erin Smith, Village President