Excerpts from the WoodstockIndependent.com:
The first of several changes to come for the Woodstock Fire/Rescue District has been announced since the village of Lakewood declined to renew its emergency services contract with the department.
WFRD Chief Ralph Webster said the deputy chief position will be eliminated by April 30 in an effort to save money and ultimately restructure the department. Eliminating the position, currently held by Deputy Chief Terry Menzel, 59, of Woodstock, will save the district about $150,000.
WFRD employees have been aware future potential cuts and decreased work hours are likely since the department lost the Lakewood contract. “We’re facing a significant loss of revenue,” Webster said. “When we took the Lakewood contract, we told the department that there would be changes if we ever lost the contract. It’s not like this was dropped on everyone at the last minute.”
WFRD was contracted to provide fire rescue services to Lakewood for the past five years. During that time, WFRD staffed Lakewood’s only fire station, at 6570 Haligus Road, independent of its staffing at its Woodstock stations. The Lakewood Village Board voted Nov. 24 not to renew a $750,000 annual contract with the WFRD, opting instead to sign a slightly cheaper agreement with the Crystal Lake Fire Department.
Woodstock’s proposal contained set 1.5-percent increases for each of the subsequent four years. The CLFD cost about $744,000 the first year and had subsequent increases built in based on a formula using the village’s property tax base. CLFD will continue working from its own Bard Road station – built years ago when it previously was contracted to provide fire services for Lakewood – but will not use the Haligus Road station.
The two contract proposals were close in cost. That factor, combined with closing a fire station on Haligus Road, left Webster questioning the move.
In restructuring for the future, the WFRD will create two battalion chief positions to serve under the fire chief. Webster has been working with union leaders to address the reduction in staff and work hours. It is possible longtime, part-time employees of the district could lose their jobs. At the same time, WFRD leaders are trying to restructure the district to align with future needs. WFRD is the result of the 1993 merging of Woodstock Rural Fire Protection District, the Woodstock Rescue Squad and Woodstock City Fire Department.
“We’re trying to push the organizational structure along,” Webster said. “Internally, it makes a lot of sense. We may be reducing some of the part-time positions. We don’t know which ones yet, and there may be a reduction in wages. We’ll be meeting with people in those groups soon. We’re kind of seeing an end of an era.”
Webster said more changes will be announced as decisions are made. The WFRD Board of Trustees next meeting will be at 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 25, at Station 3, 2900 Raffel Road.