Are bucket brigades coming back to Marengo?

On Tuesday, Jan. 29, the Marengo Fire Dept. offered a presentation to explain why they need and are requesting you to vote “Yes” on an upcoming referendum.

The Marengo Fire Dept. is the second largest fire protection district in the state, covering 106 square miles. The fire district boundaries include the City of Marengo, Riley Township, and portions of Coral and Seneca Townships. In addition to the Marengo Fire Protection District, the Marengo Rescue District also covers the Union Fire Protection District. This is approximately 24 percent of McHenry County.

The remaining portions of McHenry County are split between 14 other fire districts and municipalities. Most of those firefighters are fulltime employees and receive benefits. That is why those departments can poach trained firefighters from Marengo.

It costs $10,000 just to train and outfit one firefighter to no more than the basic level of knowledge and skill required. Firefighters are also required to undergo additional training every year to keep up with the most current techniques and learn new skills. This costs even more.

“We are experiencing a decrease in volunteerism due to employer restrictions, firefighter volunteers working outside of the district, and loss of employees to other departments and professions,” said Asst. Fire Chief Kimmel, “In the past two years, we have lost two firefighters to the private sector, four firefighters to the Memphis Fire Dept. and nine to local area fire departments. Why? Because they provide benefits to their employees and firefighters have families to support and provide for.

“Memphis, Tennessee comes here to recruit trained personnel from Marengo to cut their own training costs while they provide benefits and insurance to support and provide for a firefighter’s family.

“A Marengo Fire/Rescue firefighter/paramedic receives $46,000 with no benefits, yet this department covers a larger portion of McHenry County than any other local fire/rescue department does.

“A Cary Fire Protection District firefighter/paramedic receives $81,420 with a full benefits package.

“A Hampshire Fire Protection District firefighter/ paramedic receives $56,000 and a full benefits package.”

Surrounding Departments Levied/Operating Budgets: Huntley - $9,900,000, Algonquin - $8,200,000 (passed in 2017), Woodstock - $7,300,000 (pending), Cary - $4,190,000, Hampshire Fire - $1,540,000 (passed 2018), Harvard - $1,300,000 Marengo Fire $960,000 Marengo Rescue Squad - $653,000.

The Marengo Fire and Rescue departments together receive only 7% of tax revenue.

Facts about Marengo-Union Fire/Rescue Departments.

We have three jointly staffed stations. We staff three ALS ambulances and one ALS Engine. We have eight POCs (Paid On Call) volunteers, which is a reduction of 30 persons since 2010. We have 18 permanent part-time employees working full-time hours. We have 25 part-time Paid on Premise employees working 12-hour shifts, (then off for 24 hours). We have two districts working as a single department with cross-trained personnel.

Marengo Fire Department provides the following services:

Structure, grass, and car fires, motor vehicle accidents, water rescue, carbon monoxide alarms, natural disaster calls – tornados, severe weather, lock-outs, trench rescue, acts of mass violence, missing person searches, haz-mat responders, public education programs, citizen assistance calls, advanced life support incidents, non-emergency transportation, CPR education, Ride-Along apprentice program.

“The upcoming referendum is requested because our employee retention right now is less than three years. Meanwhile we are experiencing a 20 percent increase in the volume of emergency calls. The area is not going to get smaller and the new interchange will increase the number of emergency calls we get.”

How much will it cost me, you ask?

The average homeowner, combined between the two districts, will pay an extra $45 on the average home (with a market value of $100,000) in Marengo per year. The average homeowner combined between the two districts will pay an extra $19 on the average home (with a market value of $100,000) in Union per year.

With improved fire/rescue service in the district, insurance rates are likely to go down. You may be paying an extra $45 per year (less than $10 per month) but your insurance rate should go down by $50. You will actually be saving money.

What do I get for my money?

More consistent crews and response. Right now we have to shut down a station for a day each month. This means a slower response time since crews have to come from farther away.

More experienced crew members and long term dedication to the district and community.

Full-time staffing.

Probable - lower property insurance rates in the future re:Insurance Services Office A plan for the growth of your district.

Why have we not tried to combine the Marengo Rescue District, Marengo Fire District, and Union Fire District?

With current Illinois Statutes, if all of the districts combined, the new district would have to use the lowest levied amount. Therefore, budgets would be reduced, resulting in a reduction from current staffing levels to inadequate levels for the number of calls and size of district we serve.

On the Ballot: Marengo Fire Protection District Proposition to increase tax extension limitation

“Shall the limiting rate under the Property Tax Limitation Law for the Marengo Fire Protection District, McHenry County, Illinois, be increased by an additional amount equal to 0.077822% above the limiting rate for levy year 2018 and be equal to 0.394562 of the equalized assessed value of the taxable property therein for the levy year 2019.”

On the ballot: Marengo Rescue Squad District Proposition to increase tax extension limitation

“Shall the Marengo Rescue Squad District levy a special tax at a rate not to exceed 0.40% of the value of all taxable property within the district as equalized or assessed by the Department of Revenue for the purpose of providing or supporting an ambulance service?”

Please check YES.

This information and more will be presented at a meeting in March at the Marengo Community High School for those who are interested. The voting for the referendum will take place on April 2.

The Marengo-Union Fire/ Rescue Departments desperately need your help. It will cost less than $10 a month to support and bolster the firefighter volunteers. Continue to keep bucket brigades a thing of the past.