VILLA PARK : City Urged to Join Fire Service Coalition

Controversy over the city's future fire services erupted at the City Council meeting Tuesday night.

A group of former council members and mayors warned the council that it should not consider contracting with the city of Orange for fire services. The former officials said the city should instead join the new countywide Joint Powers Authority, or JPA.

The authority is a proposed coalition of county government and 18 cities whose fire services are provided by the Orange County Fire Department. The coalition is scheduled to be in operation this fall.

The city is the only one with service from the Orange County Fire Department that has so far refused to join the authority.

As an alternative to joining the authority, the council proposed that the city explore contracting with Orange for fire services.

The proposal alarmed 12 former mayors and council members. In a letter to the council, read by former Mayor Wayne Silzel, they warned that it would be dangerous to put the city "at the mercy of an already financially burdened city." The letter added: "Orange preferred and still would like to have the tax base of our city to augment its strained resources."

Councilman Bob Patchin tersely responded to the warning and denounced what he called "uninformed backbiting."

He said that as currently written, the Joint Powers Authority agreement is flawed and potentially dangerous. The council has protected the city by questioning the authority and refusing to join, Patchin said.

Silzel, in rejoinder, said, "I came here to say you're not listening to the community. . . . If you want to fight, I'll see you at the ballot box."

Three council members are seeking reelection Nov. 8.

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