Fire district makes case for $13M bond issue: retire debt, buy equipment, build third station

LeBlanc: ‘It’s a small price to pay for the peace of mind and security that we can protect our loved ones and our homes’

Fox River and Countryside Fire Rescue District Chief Bert Lancaster explains the cost of replacing outdated equipment at an information session Wednesday regarding its $13 million bond request on the June 28 primary ballot.

ST. CHARLES TOWNSHIP – Seeking a $13 million referendum on the June 28 primary ballot, Fox River and Countryside Fire Rescue District officials built their case at a public information session May 4.

The district serves residents in Campton Hills, Wayne and St. Charles townships in Kane and DuPage counties.

“Since 2011, when we started, we have grown leaps and bounds,” Board President Kristin LeBlanc said. “We have created a district and we have grown to two fire stations. We have invested in equipment. We have invested in our people. We have retained a lot of our employees from the beginning. We are looking at our next phase, which is continuing to meet the demands of the community.”

Officials spoke to a small crowd of four, but the presentation is on the district’s website,, the district is accepting questions via email at, and officials will host additional information sessions.

Fox River and Countryside Fire Rescue District Board President Kristin LeBlanc and Fire Chief Bert Lancaster host a presentation on the district’s $13 million bond referendum. The district is asking for voter support on the June 28 primary ballot so it can pay off its outstanding debt, buy new equipment and build a third fire station.

The bond issue is intended to pay for new equipment, new trucks and a third, centrally located fire station, Fire Chief Bert Lancaster said.

“We cover 38 square miles and have over 30,000 residents in our district,” Lancaster said. “We pride ourselves in working diligently – as we do every day – to cover all this area we have with our two fire stations, one on the east side and one on the west side.”

Station 1 is at 34W500 Carl Lee Road, St. Charles Township, on the east side. Station 2 is on the west side at 40W361 Route 64 in Campton Hills.

The district has 16 full-time firefighters, three battalion chiefs, four lieutenants, nine full-time firefighter-emergency medical technicians and 24 part-time firefighter-paramedics or emergency medical technicians, Lancaster said.

Doreen Anderson, a resident of the Fox River and Countryside Fire Rescue District, listens to a presentation Wednesday about the district’s $13 million referendum.

The growing demand for service makes the third station necessary in order to cover the whole district, Lancaster said. The district had more than 1,800 calls for service in 2021.

Staff is unavailable for one in five calls for service because the calls overlap, meaning crews already are on calls when another 911 call comes in, Lancaster said.

“Yes, we have mutual aid, but that’s time,” Lancaster said, meaning the 911 call will be answered by a district that is farther away and will take longer to get there.

With six failed referendum requests for tax rate increases, the district faces decreased staffing levels plus the expense of replacing outdated equipment and vehicles.

This is the first bond referendum request that will be structured to be paid off in 10 years, officials said.

The district has balloon payments on three loans taken out to build the two fire stations and buy equipment.

Speer Financial Senior Vice President Anthony Miceli explains how the Fox River and Countryside Fire Rescue District would spend the $13 million bond issue, if voters approve it

Speer Financial Senior Vice President Anthony Miceli said the balloon payments are $1.6 million due in January 2024, $330,000 due in May 2025 and $330,000 due in September 2028.

Passing the referendum means the district can pay off this debt and use the savings to build staffing, Lancaster said.

Miceli said because the fire district is not affiliated with any municipality, it is only supported by property taxes and those are capped.

“They cannot increase them [property taxes] at will to cover certain expenses,” Miceli said. “We’re looking at a tax increase of 14 cents [per $100 equalized assessed valuation] to pay off the bonds. That is what we are trying to target to pay off the bond issue over a period of 10 years.”

The bond cost to taxpayers would be $37.88 or $3.16 a month for a house with an equalized assessed value of $100,000. For a house valued at $300,000, the bond cost would be $130.27 a year or $10.68 a month, Miceli said.

“It’s a small price to pay for the peace of mind and security that we can protect our loved ones and our homes,” LeBlanc said.

The $13 million would be divided up as $3 million to retire the debt and $5 million each for equipment replacement and a new fire station, Lancaster said.

Miceli said officials do not have to borrow the money all at once, but issue bonds as they are needed.

Savings from not having to lease equipment will allow the district to staff the third station with three people – known as a “jump company.” Fire Station 1 has a staff of five and Fire Station 2 has a staff of four, Lancaster said.

The district already owns the property for a third station and currently is renting it to a farmer, officials said.

If the bond issue does not pass, the district will refinance its debt for lower interest, but still will face the issue of having to serve the entire district with just two fire stations, officials said. The district also will have the potential problem of overlapping calls for service that put its residents at risk.

“We want to be there in a timely manner,” Lancaster said. “Our response times are seven to eight minutes on average – meeting those (industry) standards. But by having that third station in the future is going to help us get there quicker.”