LAKE FOREST — A joint proposal from Lake Forest and Libertyville offering an outline for fire and emergency medical services to residents of the Rockland Fire Protection District, also known as the Knollwood Fire Department, provides a future for current Knollwood personnel.
The proposal was presented to the Rockland Fire Protection District Board of Trustees by the City of Lake Forest and the Village of Libertyville December 7 as the next possible step in Knollwood’s future.
Lake Forest Mayor Rob Lansing stressed in a DailyNorthShore.com interview that giving the joint proposal to the Knollwood trustees was only the next step in a longer process. Ideas began to flow in 2012 but gained traction in August when Rockland officials asked the two municipalities for a formal presentation.
“This is an early stage proposal from us and Libertyville to consider emergency fire and ambulance services,” said Lansing. “This is very far from any deal. It is merely a first proposal.”
Libertyville’s Village Board of Trustees will discuss the proposal at its December 12 meeting, according to a news release from Lake Forest. Susan Banks, the city’s communications manager, said in an email to DNS the Lake Forest City Council will await a response to the proposal before scheduling a public discussion.
Rather than compete with each other, Lake Forest and Libertyville officials decided the goals of all three communities will be better served with everyone working together, according to the release.
Proposal Offers Future for Knollwood Personnel
The proposal deals with the future of current paid personnel and volunteers with the Knollwood Fire Department and possible refurbishing or disposition of existing equipment. It does not contemplate the future of the existing Knollwood Fire Station at 14 Skokie Highway in unincorporated Lake Bluff.
“Everybody loves their local fire department,” said Lansing. “The same is true with volunteer companies such as Knollwood. This allows for a mix of full time fire professionals, paid premise personal and volunteers to work together.”
Paid premise personnel in Lake Forest are part time firefighters who work 12-hour shifts and no more than 72 hours a month, according to Lake Forest Fire Chief Pete Siebert. He said the precise definition can vary from department to department.
Lansing said this means Knollwood volunteers will have the opportunity to work alongside Lake Forest and Libertyville full time fire fighters and paramedics.
Dan Rogers, the president of the Board of Trustees of the Rockland Fire Protection District, said he has little reaction to the proposal so far since he first saw it December 7. He likes what he has heard about the potential future for Knollwood department members.
“This is an innovative part of the proposal,” Rogers said. “It is an interesting concept. It can give people interested in providing fire protection and emergency medical services a chance to become full time employees.”
Under the terms of the proposal, Lake Forest and Libertyville will decide if they want to use, repurpose or sell existing Knollwood apparatus. In the event of a sale, proceeds will go to Rockland, according to Lansing.
Rockland To Retain Fire Station
The fire station will remain the property of the Rockland Fire Protection District, according to Rogers. Its future use is still a matter of discussion.
“They have said they may store an ambulance or an engine there,” Rogers said.
The building may be demolished in the future as part of the plans for the intersection Highways 176 and 41, according to comments made by Lake Bluff Village Administrator Drew Irvin in an August 22 DNS story.
Lansing said he believes the proposal will work well for both municipalities and Knollwood residents because of the changing nature of fire departments. He said there are significantly more EMS than fire calls today.
“Because of building codes and technology we do not have as many house fires,” said Lansing. “The whole nature of personnel and equipment has changed.”
The district is roughly bounded by Highway 176 on the south, Highway 41 on the east, Talbot Street on the north and just east of Bradley Road on the west near the Tri-State Tollway — an area of unincorporated Lake County called Knollwood that is part of Lake Bluff School District 65 and the Lake Bluff Park District.