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VILLA PARK : Official Optimistic on Fire Protection

Councilman Bob Patchin said he is “cautiously optimistic” about the city’s chances of getting its share of county tax money for fire protection.

The county must agree to return tax money before the city can seek a different system of receiving fire protection.

The city is currently served by the Orange County Fire Department, which is scheduled to be phased into a Joint Powers Authority this fall, but a Villa Park City Council majority opposes the proposed new authority.

Patchin and Councilman Joseph S. Barsa met with county officials last week after the council unanimously authorized such negotiations.

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“We met with (Supervisor) Gaddi Vasquez and (County Administrative Officer) Ernie Schneider, and they agreed to have their administrative people look into this and get back to us in about two weeks,” Patchin said.

The council wants to know if county government will give the city the amount of fire-protection money proportionately paid on county property-tax bills by Villa Park residents. City officials estimate that Villa Park’s share of the money is about $635,000.

If the county agrees to return this money, Patchin said, Villa Park could investigate other forms of fire protection, such as contracting with the City of Orange Fire Department.

At a special council meeting Aug. 10, Patchin and Barsa proposed that Villa Park “contract for an initial term of 10 years with the City of Orange for its fire and paramedic services in return for Villa park’s fire-tax funds.”

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Patchin and Barsa also proposed that county government give Villa Park an existing Orange County Fire Department building near the city limits. The city would then be able to lease that building.

“The county is prepared to give all (its) fire assets to the (authority); why not give to Villa Park those assets in which it has built an equity?” Patchin and Barsa said.

Villa Park has been the only city to balk at joining the proposed authority, which will be composed of representatives of county government and each of the cities now served by the Orange County Fire Department.

Villa Park opponents of the authority have charged that it is a vague concept and may require cities to impose a tax increase.

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