Highwood, Highland Park work toward shared fire service
The City of Highwood and the City of Highland Park tentatively agreed Thursday on a shared services agreement that would dissolve Highwood's fire department and make Highland Park the official service provider of fire and emergency services for both cities.
"The more we investigated the best way to deliver fire and emergency services, the more clearly we identified a contract with Highland Park was the best solution for the safety of our residents,” Highwood Mayor Charles Pecaro said.
Though the deal has support from local government leaders, it's not official until Highwood voters approve the dissolution of its current fire department and fire station in a referendum vote in March. If voters pass the referendum, services would transition July 1. If voters don't pass the referendum, Highwood officials would likely turn to a fire personnel staffing company.
The case for sharing services rests mostly on reducing costs without compromising efficiency. Like many local governments, Highwood is looking for ways to weather the wave of economic turbulence that has been passed down to local communities from the state level as legislators attempt to work through a budget impasse. Shared service agreements have been a popular way of consolidating services and saving money.
“The two communities have worked together frequently to provide better services or reduce costs for residents. This contract would do both, if approved by voters in March 2016,” Highwood City Manager Scott Coren said.
City officials have said the two departments already respond to many of the same calls unnecessarily and that they don't expect response times to suffer.
Highwood officials expect to save more than $9.3 million over 10 years as a result of the partnership. The money would be used to fix sidewalks and roads throughout the city.