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Daily Journal
October 19, 2022
#61-292 KDJ
Members of the Bourbonnais Fire Department disassemble their equipment after fighting an apartment fire on the corner of Stratford Drive and William R. Latham Drive in Bourbonnais in June.

Daily Journal/Mason Schweizer

Bourbonnais fire district again asks voters for

By Jeff Bonty

BOURBONNAIS — Bourbonnais Fire Protection District trustees are asking residents again to increase property taxes for two years to raise much-needed funding.

The measure is on the Nov. 8 General Election ballot.

It marks the fifth time since March 2020 that the district’s voters have been asked the question through a ballot referendum. The measure was rejected in the March 2020, November 2020, April 2021 and June 2022 elections.

Why do they keep doing this?

“The reason we keep doing this is our concerns about the district and where we need to be are the same as the first time we did this,” Bourbonnais Fire Chief Jim Keener said.

The district is asking voters to raise property taxes for two years in order to update equipment due to government mandates, replace aging apparatuses and to increase the pay for personnel to the state-mandated $15 per hour.

“We’re looking at maintenance of equipment, increasing the pay or being competitive with other markets,” Keener said. “We have to keep this at the forefront. If we just drop it and say we’re not going to do it, then the people are going to look at it and say it really wasn’t important to them.

“It is important. It is my job. It is our job to keep the community informed of what the deficiencies are. We are not trying to hold anything back here.

“We are trying to be as transparent as we can be. We’ve got a concern. We want to be set for the future so that we are going to be able to provide professional services with professional people to the community we serve.”

Maintenance of vehicles, equipment and the station itself are areas that need to be addressed, he said.

The department’s 2000 tower unit is currently out of service for preventative maintenance and upgrading to current regulations. The price tag is approximately $500,000, Keener said.

A new tower unit would cost $1.5 million, he said.

“We are looking to get 10 to 12 more years out of the one we have,” Keener said. “That means it is 32 years old by the time we start looking to replace it with a new one.

“Who has a car that is 32 years old? If you have a car that is 32 years old, you probably have antique [license] plates on it.

“We’re trying to extend the life of these rigs to provide crucial services to our patients.”

Three vehicles have been refurbished saving district residents $2 million, Keener said.

They are looking at refurbishing one of its ambulances, saving $100,000 to $150,000.

Besides saving money, refurbishing equipment brings the equipment up to date with federal and state mandates.

The Bourbonnais Township Fire Protection District is its own separate taxing body and is not connected with the Village of Bourbonnais.

For a median house in Bourbonnais Township valued at $100,000, the owners would see their tax bill go up to $268.77 per year, from $148.04, an 82% increase.

Keener said the district will respond to more than 4,500 calls this year.

The Bourbonnais’ district covers 36 square miles and 36,000 people. Last year, the district responded to 4,580 calls — the second-highest call volume in the county. Kankakee was first with 7,366 calls.

Bradley’s district logged 3,343 calls and Manteno had 3,160 in 2021.

Keener said Bourbonnais district officials expect to see that number eclipse 5,000 annually in either 2023 or 2024.

“We are looking at protecting our assets, and our assets are the community,” Keener said. “That’s what we are really looking at doing. We need to advance our monies coming into us to be able to do that.”

Jeff Bonty is a reporter for The Daily Journal. He can be reached at jbonty@daily-journal.com and 815-937-3366.

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