LAKEWOOD – The decision will, as one trustee put it, "change the face of Lakewood" by closing the village's only fire station on Haligus Road and operating out of a Crystal Lake station on the other side of town.
The Lakewood Village Board voted, 3-1, with one trustee abstaining Tuesday night, to go with a slightly cheaper contract offered by the Crystal Lake Fire Department that tied increases to the village's tax base over renewing its contract with the Woodstock Fire Rescue Protection District.
The move led to one angry objection from a resident and the Woodstock fire chief walking out of the meeting, which was full of Woodstock firefighters and staff.
Under Woodstock's offer, the public works facility turned fire station would continue to house three firefighters – two who also are certified paramedics and one who is an emergency medical technician, Woodstock Fire Chief Ralph Webster said.
The agreement would cost $750,000 the first year and increase by 1.5 percent each of the next four years, according to a letter sent by Webster to the village. The village also would pay an annual $25,000 capital contribution to go toward equipment purchases.
The board, instead, went with Crystal Lake's offer, which was based on the department's existing agreement with the Crystal Lake Rural Fire Protection District.
Under the agreement, the Crystal Lake Fire Department will continue to operate its Bard Road station – a station that was built when Crystal Lake handled Lakewood's fire service with serving that territory in mind – with the current staff of four to five personnel, Crystal Lake Fire Chief Paul DeRaedt said.
The services would cost about $744,000 the first year, a number that is based on applying the Crystal Lake Rural Fire Protection District's tax rate to the village's property tax base, according to a draft agreement. The underlying calculation would dictate the fee each year for the length of the 10-year agreement, which can be renewed in five-year increments four times.
The change also would mean the village would not be responsible for building a new fire station in the future, and the village can sell its fire equipment and pay off that internal loan, Village Manager Catherine Peterson said in a memo to the board.
The certainty afforded by the contract gave Village President Erin Smith enough confidence, she said later in the meeting, to support a levy that should keep taxes on existing property flat while capturing new growth.