Take a look around. McCook has cut their fire department, North Riverside is seriously considering privatizing their fire department, all due to pension costs primarily. Conventional thinking has long departed those village boards. These are drastic actions to be sure, but they also highlight the real problem with Brookfield’s village board, planning for the future, having vision.
Several years back I had passed on the name of a consultant who was working with, I believe, LaGrange Park, Countryside and LaGrange about the viability of a fire protection district. I wanted Brookfield to join the conversation.
I believe the future holds that municipalities are going to join together in both fire and police protection districts as a means to better control costs. In talking with fire chiefs that I know over the years, they have told me one of the larger expenses for a municipality is the equipment. When we have a fire in Brookfield, other departments respond, but with each one is another truck. We have had streets lined with trucks but the real need is for the manpower; the equipment, at a point, is just redundant.
The first year I was a trustee, nine years ago, I had suggested to Mike Garvey that we talk with Lyons about using their then under-construction new police facility to handle our dispatching, since we were in need of buying our new communication system in Brookfield. Garvey wouldn’t even think about it. A reasonable foresight can help to plan for the future. Those other municipalities may not have had to consider those drastic actions with planning.
So what has happened over the last eight to 10 years in Brookfield? Staffing has been cut in every department. Garvey and Ketchmark tell the public they are doing more with less, when in reality Brookfield is doing less with less. Services have been cut dramatically over the last six years. Remember a time when you could walk in and pay your water bill at the window, when calls to the hall were returned? We are in the same boat. We don’t plan either and may face drastic actions in our near future.
The time has passed, but it may not be too late. With the village manager leaving, the village board really needs to work and develop the vision for Brookfield’s future and really plan.
Review this plan yearly and adjust for the current reality at the time. Put it on our website and invite input. Then begin exploring the different options to help us have a better future, which may or may not be the protection districts mentioned above. That will be the first step in a journey we can all join in and believe.