Oak Lawn Fire Chief George Sheets is getting a new job, but he’s not leaving his current one.
Under an agreement unanimously approved Tuesday night by the village board, Sheets will remain as chief while also overseeing the Chicago Ridge Fire Department through 2016.
The Chicago Ridge Village Board is expected to approved the agreement at its July 15 meeting, Oak Lawn Village Manager Larry Deetjen said.
Deetjen said Chicago Ridge Mayor Chuck Tokar approached Oak Lawn with the idea of Sheets becoming fire chief in both villages. Tokar could not be reached Tuesday night regarding Sheets taking over as the village’s fire chief. The move comes a few weeks after Chicago Ridge Fire Chief Robert Muszynski resigned, citing “personal differences” with the village’s elected officials, specifically Tokar, over possible changes the village is considering for the fire department.
His resignation came at the urging of Tokar, several Chicago Ridge trustees have said, but the board accepted Muszynski’s letter of resignation last month.
Muszynski’s resignation occurred several weeks after the village board encouraged Tokar to look at whether firefighting and/or ambulance service could be provided more efficiently — a move that has Chicago Ridge firefighters worried about losing their jobs. The changes under consideration could include hiring a private ambulance service or eliminating the fire department and joining a fire protection district, Tokar has said.
Last month, firefighter/paramedic Christ Schmelzer, president of Chicago Ridge Professional Firefighters Local 3098, said there was a “lot of tension in the firehouse” with Muszynski’s departure and the potential changes to the department.
Deetjen had no comment about Chicago Ridge exploring other firefighting or ambulance options but did say “there’s ample opportunity to run fire departments more efficiently.” He said he expects Sheets to hit the ground running, saying he will soon meet with Chicago Ridge’s 13 firefighters to “get to know them better.”