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THE LANDMARK VIEW

Opinion

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When suburbs like Riverside started sprouting on the prairie that surrounded Chicago, the population was sparse, roads were often impassable and transportation required patience.

Municipalities carved little fiefdoms into the landscape?"none more so than Riverside, which was designed to be unlike any suburb in the area. As a result, each town began building its own schools and its own municipal fire and police departments.

In time, everything changed. Transportation became a breeze with better roads and automobiles. Suburbs grew to the extent that often one town was indistinguishable from another, without signage indicating the town's borders, and more and more schools sprouted up to serve the ever-growing population.

Yet the structure of government and government services remained mainly static. Towns still had their own police and fire departments, even though they often were called on to assist other towns. School districts of one and two schools still remain, each with their own administrative staffs and associated costs.

In the meantime, those costs keep rising ever higher. Computer equipment, buildings, infrastructure?"everything continues to mount in such a way that taxpayers are indefinitely bombarded with demands for tax increases. Where's the end? There isn't one.

That's why anytime there's an opportunity to examine streamlining local government, municipalities ought to at least look at the possibility. Actually, we'd go further than that. Municipalities and school districts ought to begin actively looking for ways to consolidate services to relieve pressure from taxpayers.

Riverside and Lyons have long had a cooperative relationship when it comes to fire services. If there's a fire call in either town, the other automatically comes to assist.

That's why it makes sense for both villages to investigate the possibility of joint emergency dispatch services. Now they need to convince other small municipalities to jump aboard. Once that happens, not only will each municipality save money in terms of equipment costs, but in personnel costs as well.

Exactly what this may end up costing Riverside is unknown, and it's sure not to be cheap. If Riverside chooses to take a pass on this opportunity, it will continue as it has, picking up the cost of new emergency dispatch equipment?"which is a six-figure line item each time it's replaced.

The downside to the idea is the up-front cost. The upside to a joint dispatch center is long-term savings. Not only will it provide police and fire departments with efficient, around-the-clock dispatching, it will provide much-needed space to the Riverside Police Department, especially if the department can rid itself of its lockup and dispatch center.

While we're on the subject of consolidation, school districts are notoriously territorial, perhaps more than villages. Yet, we see no reason why local districts such as 94, 95 and 96 and Riverside-Brookfield High School District 208 shouldn't at least examine the prospect of a combined unit district that would streamline school administration and prevent the helter-skelter barrage of referendums that come at taxpayers from seemingly every direction.

It may turn out that such a consolidated district wouldn't be feasible or even wanted by the community, but no one will ever know unless someone actually starts the ball rolling and finds out.

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