Archive for July 24th, 2016

Oak Lawn Fire Department news

Excerpts from the

Interest arbitration proceedings between the village of Oak Lawn and its firefighters union concluded this week, setting the stage for an independent arbitrator to rule on the parties’ longstanding collective bargaining dispute over minimum staffing levels.

Millions of taxpayer dollars hang on the arbitrator’s decision, which isn’t expected until November, but became a heated topic of debate among village trustees after one penned a rebuke of the mayor’s decision to continue her costly legal campaign against Oak Lawn’s Fire Department.

At issue currently is the village’s contention that it should be able to set minimum staffing levels at 19 firefighters per shift, down two from the 21-per-shift staffing minimum that an independent arbitrator in 2008 ruled the village must abide by, Oak Lawn officials said.

The dispute dates back to 2008, when the firefighters union filed a grievance against Oak Lawn after the village, as a belt-tightening measure, began staffing engines with three people, rather than four, as is stipulated in the contract.

A grievance arbitrator sided with the union and ordered the village to maintain a minimum manning level of 21 people per shift and provide $286,000 in back pay for the nine-plus months the village had reduced staffing below that number, village officials said.

As a result, the village returned minimum staffing to 21 per shift and, after losing an appeal of the arbitrator’s decision, paid out the allotted sum.

The union later filed a compliance petition, arguing that the village had not complied with the minimum staffing provisions in the contract. The Illinois Labor Relations Board initially found in favor of the union and last year awarded them more than $3 million in back pay and accrued interest, but that decision was later reversed on appeal.

Oak Lawn has argued separately, and thus far unsuccessfully, that minimum staffing levels at the fire department should be a management prerogative that is not subject to collective bargaining. As a result, both sides have repeatedly come to loggerheads when negotiating labor contracts in recent years.

“It’s our contention that that is an inherent right in Illinois and that the decision on how to staff and what level to staff and how to deploy is a right of management, the governing body,” said village manager Larry Deetjen, who along with Fire Chief George Sheets, Mayor Sandra Bury and all but one member of the board, argue that the fire department can operate safely and effectively with fewer members working per shift and in so doing, save the village a significant amount in overtime costs.

The collective bargaining dispute first went to an interest arbitrator in 2014, who decided to leave staffing stipulations contained in the contract as is. When that contract expired at the end of 2014, the village brought the issue back to arbitration, where a new arbitrator will rule on it in the coming months.

In an editorial printed last month in multiple local publications, Trustee Bob Streit, the board’s lone consistent opposition voice, questioned Bury’s decision to continue expending taxpayer funds in the village’s years-long legal battle with the fire department over minimum staffing, while simultaneously supporting the recent settlement of a lawsuit filed by a former village employee to save taxpayers money by avoiding the expense of prolonged litigation.

“For more than three years you and the village manager instructed village attorneys to disregard court rulings and pursue … this legal battle with no concern for taxpayers in this instance,” wrote Streit, claiming that the village had spent more than $1 million in legal fees on the case.

“Actions speak louder than words, Mayor Bury, and your actions clearly communicate that you’re one of those politicians who say one thing and do another,” the letter continues. “You have completely ‘un-friended’ the taxpayers of Oak Lawn, and you owe each of us an explanation.”

Bury, who Wednesday issued a unified letter from the rest of the board in response to Streit’s allegations, said her explanation for fighting the litigation was simple. The economic stakes are simply too high not to continue the village’s legal fight with the fire department.

She said the $1 million figure Streit cited for legal fees expended was incorrect, and asserted the village actually had spent a combined $514,769 on all fire department legal matters since she took office in May 2013.

That taxpayer money, Bury said, had been put to good use.

She credits the village’s willingness to fight a 2015 Illinois Labor Relations Board ruling for saving Oak Lawn millions of dollars.

The board’s initial ruling, which ordered the village to pay firefighters $3.2 million for years of back pay and accrued interest, was reversed on appeal last summer. The firefighters union is now appealing that reversal before the Illinois Appellate Court.

Oak Lawn officials said the village stands to save an additional $937,000 in overtime costs annually going forward if it prevails in its current arbitration with the department over minimum staffing requirements.

She accused Streit, who initially supported fighting the firefighters union on the staffing issue, of playing politics.

Streit defended his $1 million figure, stating that the legal fees came up during finance committee meetings held during the budget process last year.

Streit acknowledged that while the most recent court rulings have favored the village, he expects those will be reversed on appeal, and that Oak Lawn will be on the hook for the more than $3 million that Bury asserts she’s saved taxpayers.

He said he initially went along with Deetjen’s recommendation to defend the village against the union’s grievance, but changed his mind after multiple legal setbacks.

“I respect the opinion of the court,” said Streit, who also said he believes the village should long ago have worked out a negotiated settlement with the union rather than fight a protracted legal battle. “When the court ruled in favor of the firefighters, it was time to stop fighting, for sure.”

Rather than reduce staffing levels, Streit contends that the village needs to hire more firefighters and called the 30 percent reduction in fire department personnel over the last 20 years “an assault on public safety.”

Village officials responded that hiring additional firefighters was neither necessary from a safety standpoint nor fiscally responsible.

According to an analysis performed by Oak Lawn’s finance director, the gross lifetime cost of hiring a firefighter at age 22 who goes on to work for 30 years, retires and lives another 30 years post-retirement is approximately $7.5 million. For that reason, it’s actually more cost-effective to pay firefighters nearly $3 million in overtime annually than hire more workers, officials said.

Bury, in her rebuttal to Streit, wrote that she just wants Oak Lawn’s fire department minimum staffing levels to align with those of the communities where the majority of its firefighters live.

“This Administration’s position is simple,” she wrote. “If it is safe and effective for those fire departments, then it can be safe and effective for Oak Lawn.”

thanks Dan

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Bloomingdale Fire District news

Excerpts from the

In Bloomingdale, firefighters had to use an adult oxygen mask [on a dog] that was not designed for pets, which adds to the animal’s stress and leaves the owner frantic.

The Bloomingdale Fire Protection District [recently] welcomed a donation of masks specifically meant to fit around a snout and administer oxygen to a pet struggling to breath.

Invisible Fence of Chicagoland donated two kits that the district will keep on apparatus at its two stations. With the help of a veterinarian, firefighters were trained how to use the mask on a dog.

Through a program called Project Breathe, the company has provided more than 10,000 kits to fire stations across the country and Canada. Earlier this month, Wheaton firefighters received the devices.

Fire departments can complete forms seeking the kits at

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Working fire in Chicago, 7-23-16

Found on YouTube:


thanks Dan

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New Ambulance in Maywood

This from Josh Boyajian:

New ambulance in Maywood, A500 2014 Ford E-450/Wheeled Coach Type III

Maywood FD Ambulance 500

Maywood Ambulance 500 – 2014 Ford E450/Wheeled Coach Type III. Josh Boyajian photo

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