Lakewood to have new fire protection

WOODSTOCK – The Woodstock Fire Rescue District will provide fire protection to the Village of Lakewood starting next year.

WFRD board members Thursday night unanimously voted to prepare an intergovernmental agreement with Lakewood to provide protection to the village for the next five years, with the village paying the district for services on a monthly basis. The fire district board and the Village Board plan to approve the agreement at their December meetings.

The agreement will include utilizing Lakewood’s Haligus Road fire station.

“We are interested in a long-term relationship with the Woodstock Fire Rescue District,” Lakewood Village President Erin Smith said, adding that the district has “the scale and scope to cover what is now a much larger village.”

Lakewood will see savings of about $100,000 a year with WFRD services, Smith said, compared with what it pays for protection through the privately staffed American Emergency Services.

For the first year of service, the village will pay $595,000, with an estimated 10 to 15 percent overage built in that will go to the district if not needed for operating expenses, Woodstock Fire Chief Ralph Webster said.

The second year, the payment increases by 5 percent and jumps to $765,000 the third year, covering the cost of additional employees. The goal is to increase the WFRD by six positions – with possibly three additional full-timers in the next two years, Webster said, emphasizing that WFRD taxes will not be used to provide service to Lakewood.

“The money that is being asked for from Lakewood will cover the expenses,” he said.

Some Lakewood fire personnel will be kept on as part-time employees, Webster said. The Haligus Road station initially would be staffed with three firefighters with plans to add another in six months, Webster said.

Webster said he saw the agreement as a partnership more than a takeover of service.

“We are in fact partnering with the village of Lakewood to provide service to the community,” he said.

Fire district and village officials agree that annexation into the WFRD is the best long-term solution. For that to happen, a citizens’ group would have to champion the move, he said.

After decades of partnering with Crystal Lake for fire protection and four years of utilizing a private service, Smith said she knew that working with the WFRD is the way to go.

“We think it’s in everybody’s best interest to move quickly,” she said.

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