Consultant Recommends EMS enhancements and Maintain Current Staffing Levels

Village of Barrington News
July 28, 2013

In a report presented Monday, July 15th to the Barrington Village Board, a consultant recommended that the Barrington Fire Department increase its ability to respond to emergency medical service calls by improving its capacity to respond to multiple calls. The report recommended that the Board approve a departmental staffing structure that would maintain current staffing levels at Barrington’s fire station. 

The report (which is available by clicking here), which the Village Board received and released to the public on Monday evening, recommended staffing models for the Barrington Fire Department as of January 1 2014, the date which the Barrington Countryside Fire Protection District will assume responsibility for staffing fire stations in Lake Barrington and Barrington Hills. 

The consultant, William Balling of WRB, LLC, outlined two staffing scenarios for the Department. “Option One”, recommends total staffing of 16 sworn personnel, including 14 operations and 2 administrative positions. “Option Two”, recommends total staffing of 18 sworn personnel, including 16 operations and 2 administrative positions. Both options provide enhanced service for the Village and allow the Department to bolster its capacity to respond to emergency medical calls, which represent more than half of the Department’s overall calls for service. Expanding this capacity will improve service by reducing response times particularly when handling multiple EMS calls. 

Both options also mean that the Village can save tens of millions of dollars in future pension costs since it will no longer be responsible for the future pension costs of firefighters serving Lake Barrington, Barrington Hills, South Barrington and the other parts of the Fire District. 

The Village Board will consider these two options and make a decision at the August 19 regular Board meeting. In the meantime, it will continue to gather information and input from community members. 

“We can all agree that one Barrington Fire Department that serves Barrington residents first and foremost is right for Barrington,” said Village President Karen Darch. “Whichever option we endorse, it will support our desire for a fully staffed fire department that delivers robust service. The old model served the Barrington Fire Protection District well. But the new model, because of the staffing and cost benefits it will deliver, will serve Barrington residents better.” 
Whichever model the Village Board ultimately endorses, it anticipates reducing the Fire Department’s workforce so it aligns with the much smaller service area it will be responsible for on January 1 2014. 

The reduction of the workforce is necessitated by the Barrington Countryside Fire Protection District’s decision to terminate a service agreement it had with the Village for decades. Under that agreement, the Village served as the employer, providing 39 sworn personnel to serve a large, 51-square mile area that included several other communities and unincorporated areas. As the employer under the old service arrangement, Village taxpayers were obligated to guarantee pension and disability health insurance benefits for all of the employees, including those who primarily served the District. 

The new model, which will go into effect on January 1 2014 has one Barrington Fire Department serving residents within Barrington’s corporate boundaries. The District will be responsible for identifying an appropriate staffing model to provide fire service to the communities and unincorporated areas located within its boundaries. The report recognized the benefits that would be realized by both the Village and District through an automatic aid agreement and the Village is attempting to negotiate such an agreement with the District. 

The Village has urged the Barrington Countryside Fire Protection District to hire all the Barrington firefighters that will be impacted by the realignment at their current salary and to provide a generous benefit package and a signing bonus. The District is currently working to identify how it wants to staff its operation when the current service agreement expires on January 1 2014. 

In considering how the Department will be restructured, Mr. Balling examined several key factors including incident coverage, station availability and location’ apparatus and mobile equipment; operational staffing; supervisory and incident command staffing; infrastructure and environment in the primary response area and automatic and mutual aid agreements and special response teams; and fire prevention activities. 

The report stated, “The termination of the IGA by the District has provided the Village with the opportunity to restructure the Barrington Fire Department so that it is focused on providing service solely for the benefit of Barrington residents… The current service model requires Barrington taxpayers to shoulder the burden of pension and disability health insurance costs for a workforce that is twice the size of the workforce needed to provide service only to Barrington.” 

In describing the more robust of the two options, the report projected a modest cost increase in providing services to Barrington. The report also said significant long term savings can be delivered to Barrington taxpayers. 

“Providing fire, emergency medical and rescue, and specialty responses to emergency events of all types is achievable by the Barrington Fire Department with a minimal financial impact on the Village’s current resources but a distinct savings for Barrington taxpayers over the long term as the legacy cost of pensions and disability healthcare will be reduced by more than 50%.” the report stated. 

“The Village and its residents rightfully expect that safety will not be compromised as this realignment takes place,” said Darch. “We know that delivery of top-notch public safety services is the cornerstone to a strong, healthy community. That’s why everything we are doing will make the Barrington Fire Department stronger, more responsive and better equipped to serve our community. A further benefit is that the new model allows us to relieve Barrington taxpayers of the exorbitant and growing costs of paying pension, disability and health insurance costs for firefighters who were not serving Barrington residents.”