VILLA PARK : City Weighs Future of Fire Service Contract
The City Council has voted to ask the county whether the city can take its fire-protection tax money and shop for something other than the Orange County Fire Department.
If the county agrees to relinquish the tax money, Villa Park will then explore the possibility of contracting with the nearby city of Orange Fire Department. Residents pay about $650,000 a year for county fire protection.
Councilman Joseph S. Barsa said the council’s 4-0 vote at a special meeting Wednesday night “authorizes us to explore (the tax situation) with the county.” If the county agrees to give Villa Park its share of fire-tax money, Barsa said, the city can look for a new fire department.
But if the county turns down the request, Barsa added, Villa Park has no money to shop for alternate fire protection.
“If it’s a no-go, everything else is dead,” Barsa said.
The council’s decision to try to get its county fire-protection money came as a majority of council members expressed disdain for a proposed new governing board for the county Fire Department.
Villa Park, along with 15 other cities in the county, currently contracts with the county Fire Department for service and protection. Villa Park’s council has repeatedly emphasized that the city is happy with its current arrangement with the county.
But a majority on the council has predicted the city will be slapped with increased taxes in the future if the department becomes governed by a proposed new Joint Powers Authority, or JPA. Three council members--Barsa, Councilman Bob Patchin and Mayor Barry L. Denes--have criticized the JPA and said Villa Park should look for an alternative.
The other two council members, John Frackelton and Bob Bell, have been less critical of the JPA. Bell was out of state and unable to attend Wednesday night’s meeting. Frackelton said he was voting with the council majority to ask the county to relinquish the city’s fire- protection money, but he noted that the vote does not commit Villa Park to any action.
Frackelton said the fire-protection issue needs more discussion before the City Council acts on an alternative fire protection method.
Debate over the JPA has become a hot issue in Villa Park. Several residents addressed the council meeting Wednesday night, some praising and some censuring the council majority.
“What has been manifested tonight is appalling to me,” said David Parker. He accused some on the council, whom he did not identify, of having a “personal agenda” in opposing the JPA.
Another resident, Jim Brodsky, urged the council to put the JPA issue to a vote of the people.
Others supported the council majority in seeking an alternative to joining the new fire authority.
“I applaud you,” said Kathy Moran.