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In Re Roberts Park Fire Prot. Dist.

MAY 6, 1974.

IN RE ROBERTS PARK FIRE PROTECTION DISTRICT, PETITIONER — (ROBERTS PARK FIRE PROTECTION DISTRICT, PETITIONER-APPELLANT,

v.

THE VILLAGE OF BRIDGEVIEW, RESPONDENT-APPELLEE.)



APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. HARRY G. COMERFORD, Judge, presiding.

MR. JUSTICE GOLDBERG DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

Rehearing denied June 26, 1974.

The Roberts Park Fire Protection District is a municipal corporation operating in the area southwest of the city of Chicago. A number of villages are included within the District. The litigation before us commenced with the filing of a petition by the District in which it sought to prevent a disconnection from its territory of a certain area located within the Village of Bridgeview. (See Ill. Rev. Stat. 1973, ch. 127 1/2, par. 38.3.) The amended petition filed by the District and answered by the Village alleged in substance that the boundaries of the District included parts of the Villages of Bridgeview and Justice; Bridgeview maintained a total volunteer fire department prior to 1970 and Justice continued to maintain a total volunteer fire department; the disconnection of the lands involved would impair the ability of the District to render fully adequate fire protection service to the balance of the District and that such disconnection made no adequate provision for the protection of contractual obligations and debts of the District. These allegations of the petition were denied by the Village.

After a hearing, without a jury, the trial court found that the disconnection of that portion of the District located within the Village would not impair the ability of the District to render fully adequate fire protection to territory remaining in the District and that the statute providing for the disconnection was not contrary to any of the provisions of the constitutions of the United States and of the state of Illinois. The court, therefore, ordered that the petition of the District, seeking to avoid the disconnection, be dismissed. The District appeals. The Village of Justice has withdrawn its objection to the petition and remains within the District.

The evidence shows that the District is bounded by Harlem Avenue on the east, 79th Street on the north and 95th Street on the south. The western boundary of the District is irregular. That portion of the District which lies within the Village comprises 30% or 35% of the total area of the District. Approximately 24.5% of the total revenue of the District results from taxes on real estate within the Village limits. There is evidence that outside of the Village area the District consists mostly of residential uses with a few small and scattered commercial uses. A professional fire fighter testified that the most significant fire hazard in this area of the District was a complex of apartment buildings up to four stories in height. That part of the Village which is located within the District has some residential uses and also some industrial and mercantile establishments. The Village fire department has 19 full-time members who service the area in shifts during each 24-hour period. The department also has 35 volunteer firemen who are paid on call, together with three full-time personnel occupied in fire prevention activities. There is testimony that the Village has equipment of the type necessary to handle industrial fires.

The District has a fire chief who is an experienced professional. It has a permanent full-time crew of four professional firemen and 35 volunteer firemen. The parties filed a written stipulation which showed the vehicles and apparatus owned and operated by the District and which also stated that "heretofore both the Village of Bridgeview and the Roberts Park Fire Protection District have rendered fully adequate fire protection service to the territory within their respective corporate limits."

It is undisputed that disconnection of the Village territory within the District would reduce actual tax revenue of the District by about 24.5%. The stipulation between the parties also reflected the total assessed value of all real property within the District and within that portion of the District inside of the Village; the total tax rate; and totals of taxes extended and taxes actually received by the District for the tax years 1968-1971 inclusive. This information is reflected as follows:

1968 1969 1970 1971

Assessed value of all District property $41,937,846 $51,836,860 $61,418,325 $70,507,052

Tax Rate 0.10 0.098 0.278 0.256

Assessed value of District property within Village 8,361,051 10,872,236 14,606,328 17,093,585

Taxes extended 41,938 50,800 170,743 180,498

Taxes received by District 38,454 45,133 168,841 ____

The record also shows that, for the year 1972, the fire department of the District responded to a total of 816 alarms. A total of 180 of these incidents occurred within the limits of the Village, meaning that 636 alarms were handled relating to property outside of the Village but within the District. Calculation shows that for the year 1972 approximately 22% of all of the emergency calls answered by the District fire department ...


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