By Bob Uphues
For the rock-bottom price of $250 a year, the village of Brookfield could be in line to receive thousands of dollars in emergency public works assistance, should the occasion call for it.
In January, the Brookfield Village Board is expected to vote to join the Illinois Public Works Mutual Aid Network (IPWMAN), a consortium of more than 200 municipal public works agencies that serves as a kind of insurance policy in the case of natural or man-made disasters.
"They help each other with personnel and resources in emergency situations," said Brookfield Public Works Director Amy Wagner, who pitched the idea of joining the network based on her experience as part of the group when she worked for the city of Lockport.
"If we have a disaster where we're shorthanded or understaffed to take care of all of the work that needs to be done, we would call IPWMAN and they would deploy personnel and resources from area communities that are also members to help us out," Wagner said.
To illustrate the way IPWMAN works, Wagner referenced the consortium's response in 2012 to a microburst event in Lockport that left the city with heavy damage to trees. IPWMAN sent personnel from eight member agencies to the city over the course of five days, providing almost $25,000 in aid.
"It was a huge help," said Wagner, who was assistant city engineer at the time.
According to Wagner, members of IPWMAN can get up to five days of assistance from other member agencies at no cost, though after five days members are charged for the cost of continued assistance.
For the five days after the microburst event in Lockport, said Wagner, "All the city spent was money for lunch" for those who came to their aid.
There is no maximum number of times any members can request aid during the year and there is no requirement for member agencies to provide assistance at any specific time.
"If we're short staff, if we've got other things going on and we just can't spare the people that day, it's not a requirement," Wagner said.
Village Manager Keith Sbiral likened the arrangement to mutual aid agreements Brookfield has with neighboring fire departments.
Despite the lack of a requirement for sending personnel to other communities to help out in case of emergencies, Wagner indicated that members are often eager to pitch in.
"You can help out as little as one day," Wagner said. "We can send a couple guys and a truck."
Lockport, for example, used the consortium's help just once in her nine years there. The city reciprocated when they sent resources to downstate Washington in the wake of devastating tornados that struck that area in November 2013.
Members of the village board agreed that joining IPWMAN appeared to be a good idea, but the formal vote to join will come in the next month.
"For $250 it seems like there's little risk to this moving forward," said Village President Kit Ketchmark.