There are not a whole lot of things about Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner’s “Turnaround Agenda” that we find all that appealing, but there’s one aspect of that policy document (though, to be sure, he’s not the first to make the argument) we certainly do agree with:
There are too many units of government providing overlapping services that could be as easily or more effectively delivered by fewer agencies.
Township government, for example, comes to mind, particularly in the Chicago suburbs where municipal governments provide most services and might just as easily take on roles played by township governments.
Last year, the governor signed a bill that had wide support from both side of the aisle, which called for municipalities with less than 25,000 people to either form or join a consolidated E911 dispatch center to serve more people, more effectively.
This makes sense particularly in the rural parts of the state where resources are stretched and service inconsistent. In Cook County, the mandate has proven to be a pain in the neck for public safety leaders, whose police and fire departments typically have good E911 service and who have sunk a lot of money into maintaining and upgrading their systems as technology has advanced.
But by next summer, emergency calls are slated to be handled in Brookfield, North Riverside and Riverside by a joint dispatch center located in North Riverside. And police chiefs in those towns agree that, even though it’s a lot of work to complete under a short deadline, the final result will be more consistent, better E911 dispatch.
The new center will not only take police and fire calls, the dispatchers will all be trained to provide Emergency Medical Dispatch, which means they’ll be able to give callers and paramedics pre-arrival instructions, help assess the severity of and appropriate paramedic response to the medical emergency.
None of the local dispatch centers are equipped to provide such service right now, and because all three departments often respond to the others’ calls (if local ambulances are not available, for example) there will be more consistency in the dispatch protocols.
With police, fire and medical emergency dispatch all centralized, it also might be a good time for the villages to think about consolidating fire department services. All provide one another with mutual aid already, and the departments staffing equipment needs are extremely costly.
Forming a fire protection district that would segregate money going for that particular public safety need might be a more appropriate way to deliver the kind of service all municipalities need.
Public safety shouldn’t be compromised by the nation’s economic misfortunes or decisions by local politicians to take shortcuts on things like pension funding in order to achieve balances elsewhere.
Creating a consolidated agency devoted to aspects public safety like dispatching and fire services could make sense. As long as we’re thinking consolidation these days, it can’t hurt to take a look.