The provisions of the landmark bill allowing DuPage County to dissolve county-appointed government agencies were first exercised at Tuesday’s County Board meeting, when the proposed dissolution of the Fairview Fire Protection District of unincorporated Downers Grove was approved.
The bill, SB-494, was signed into law in early August by Gov. Pat Quinn, and allows the board to identify and dissolve outdated, defunct or redundant bodies such as mosquito abatement and sanitary districts to streamline services.
Board Chairman Dan Cronin said the county was the first in the state to enact such a law and called Tuesday’s unanimous vote a “momentous occasion.”
“We take this responsibility very seriously and we are using these new tools in a thoughtful manner that will project our successes beyond our own borders both in the region and in the entire state,” he said.
The Fairview District does not own fire equipment or employ staff, but levies an annual property tax and has an agreement with the village of Downers Grove to provide its emergency response services to 187 parcels of property, according to a county news release.
Yet the district owes more than $100,000 to the village of Downers Grove, according to an assessment prompted by the DuPage County Board. The assessment determined that, due to tax caps, the district would not be able to resolve the unpaid obligation without a referendum to seek additional money.
Now, a Special Service Area has been created for the parcels, effectively removing the middle man of the Fairview District, and the village has agreed to waive the debt. The creation of the Special Service Area will also eliminate administrative costs such as audit fees.
Before the district can be formally dissolved, an audit will be performed and an ordinance calling for its formal dissolution must be passed by the board, the release said. A trustee in dissolution will then be appointed and, after a five-month waiting period, the district will be dissolved.
Cronin said the county worked to build consensus and support for the closure for a year and a half, but has another four to five dissolutions it will consider in the near future, including the sanitary districts of Salt Creek and Highland Hills.
The chairman said work of this nature is complicated and difficult to approach responsibly without forcing change onto unwilling parties, so the seemingly small progress of one district was significant.
“That’s the challenging part about consolidation, there’s no ‘one size fits all,'” he said. “You have to look at each unit individually.”
Note to readers: A version of this story stating that the Fairview Fire Protection District was dissolved Tuesday previously ran in print and online. The dissolution will take place after the passage of a separate ordinance and a five-month waiting period. The article has been corrected to reflect this information.