Fontana, Walworth explore consolidation
Fontana and Walworth are considering combining courts, police and fire departments.
The public works department, library services and government administration also are on the study list.
“It’s something that’s been out there brewing for quite some time,” said Fontana Village Administrator Kelly Hayden. “Economics is driving a lot of this. The harsh reality is that the funds are not unlimited.”
An ad hoc committee of three trustees from each village has met three times since November and worked with a consultant to prioritize departments.
The villages already share some services.
They combined building and zoning departments in 2006, and they’ve shared a wastewater treatment plant since the late 1980s.
The police and fire departments provide mutual aid to one another, and the public works departments share equipment.
Consolidating some services should be “pretty straightforward” given how the villages partner up now, said Walworth Trustee Matt Long, chairman of the ad hoc committee.
“It’s just a matter of formalizing things already in place on an informal basis,” he said.
“We’re looking at it one department at a time to see if it would make sense to do that,” Long said.
The municipal courts will get the first look because merging them would affect the fewest people. Walworth Trustee Rich Simonson said the villages could experience “a taste of success” by combing the courts, which could fuel officials as they delve into the more complex departments.
“Common sense has a lot of play in it,” Simonson said. “It seems like something that was prudent to start discussing.”
Hayden said the committee is doing a thorough inventory of its services before making any decisions.
“No department was left out,” she said. “This is definitely a full-blown look. What can work and what can’t? What’s practical and what’s not practical?”
Village officials don’t really know what they’re getting into.
“I think we’re going to find out as we dig into this,” Long said.
They do know, however, that community support is going to be necessary if any consolidation effort is going to become a reality.
“We want to be receptive to what the community wants,” Hayden said.
Community identity can be lost if care isn’t taken to maintain it, and an effort to share services can be misinterpreted.
“Consolidation may not be 100 percent,” Hayden said. “It’s not one police department or one fire department, or one clerk or one treasurer. It could be just sharing equipment.”