CARY – The Village Board is considering whether to provide the Cary Fire Protection District with a "financial bridge" to prevent the district from switching its dispatch services to McHenry's new facility and creating a fractionalized dispatch situation for the village.
Village Administrator Chris Clark told the Committee of the Whole this week that the McHenry dispatch center called NERCOMM, which will be one of three in the county after state-mandated dispatch consolidation takes effect next year, offered the fire district an annual rate about $40,000 less than the offer from SEECOM.
Currently, both Cary's police and fire services are dispatched through Crystal Lake-based SEECOM. The village of Cary is an equity partner in SEECOM, and Clark told board members it could not move village police to another dispatch center until bonds are paid off in December 2019.
If the fire district jumped to McHenry's center, Clark said, all calls would be routed there and calls requiring police would require a transfer to SEECOM, which would lead to a short delay in response time and potential for "anomaly situations" where calls are not transferred properly.
Police Chief Patrick Finlon said he was concerned about calls being handled by more than one dispatch center and the complications that could create.
Clark presented the board with the possibility of contributing a yearly subsidy of $25,000 to $30,000 to keep fire dispatch at SEECOM.
"The alternative is to let it go and have fractionalized calls," Clark said. "I just don't know how long that would be for and if it would ever come back."
Trustees were divided in their initial reactions, with Trustees Rick Dudek and Ellen McAlpine expressing support for the subsidy.
"At the end of the day, we're potentially talking about human lives for 20 or 30 thousand dollars," Dudek said. "I know we don't have 20 or 30 thousand dollars we can pull out of thin air, but human lives are always going to mean something to me."
Trustees Jim Cosler, Kim Covelli and Jeff Kraus expressed opposition to the idea of subsidizing another taxing body.
"I understand what Trustee McAlpine and Dudek say about lives, but I really don't believe the fire chief is going to put lives in jeopardy with decisions they're making," Cosler said. "It feels to me like we're being put in a position to make a decision, being the good guy or bad guy, and it's not really our decision."
Trustee Dave Chapman said he was on the fence and would like to see more research about how calls are handled in fractionalized situations.
The village of Huntley and Lake in the Hills both had fractionalized service until the consolidation mandate led their police departments to move to SEECOM.