Highland Park hopes to save about $200,000 a year by consolidating its emergency dispatch services with Glenview's later this spring, officials said recently.
Officials say the dispatch consolidation may improve emergency response.
It's the latest example of suburban communities joining forces to maintain services while reducing costs.
The Highland Park City Council recently asked village staff members to start negotiations with Glenview; elected officials in Lake Forest and Lake Bluff are expected to follow suit.
If all goes according to expectations, Glenview will handle police and fire dispatch services for all three towns, while operating out of the Highland Park police station.
Among the three North Shore towns, 23 full-time employees would be reduced to 12.
The immediate savings in personnel costs and the long-term savings in technology infrastructure couldn't be ignored, said Highland Park Police Chief Paul Shafer.
"I don't see any risk," Shafer said in an interview. "I think this will be very positive for Highland Park."
If there's a downside, he said, it's that nine Highland Park employees may soon be without a job.
Glenview will extend interviews to all public safety communications employees for the three towns, but nothing's guaranteed.
"I feel badly about that," Shafer said. "We do feel loyal to our employees. …That's an unfortunate result."
The consolidation — projected to save Highland Park, Lake Forest and Lake Bluff a combined $4.5 million over five years — has been studied for the past year.
Matrix Consulting Group, a public safety consulting firm, conducted a study of various cost-saving scenarios and presented findings to officials last month.
The process has been a mixed bag for Jason Kern, communications supervisor of Highland Park, who has been involved in the conversation from the beginning.
"It's been tough wearing the two hats," Kern said. "From a management standpoint, from a fiscal standpoint, I think consolidation is a good thing."
But Kern, who's worked for Highland Park for 17 years, is also one of those nine Highland Park employees whose future employment is uncertain.
"This is a very tight-knit group. We work together closely. We eat our meals here together. We've become a family," he said. "To see them in a state of flux has been very difficult."
As for the consolidation's effect on the quality of service, Kern said he expects it to be minimal or perhaps even an improvement.
Dispatchers strive to process emergency calls within 60 seconds, he said, which can be very difficult if a caller is hysterical and can't articulate where they are or say what happened.
Typically, Highland Park dispatchers work in a team-like environment, Kern said. One dispatcher collects information from the caller while a second dispatcher simultaneously communicates with emergency responders.