Excerpts from the ChicagoTribune.com:

Calumet Park Mayor Ronald Denson told residents Saturday that he was considering outsourcing the village’s fire department in the wake of shrinking revenues.  Money has been especially tight for Calumet Park since the closure of Ultra Foods last year, the community’s only traditional grocery store, wiping out one of the village’s major revenue streams.

“What I’m looking at is, how can we maintain a fire department with the revenue that we have?” Denson said in response to a resident’s question about rumors that the department was on the chopping block. “If the revenue is not there, where are we going to get it? Where are we going to get the salaries that they require?” he continued, adding that he also had examined outsourcing the Public Works Department, but ultimately decided against it.

The fire department’s tenuous status was revealed during the forum’s question-and-answer portion, which followed a series of presentations by village department heads who spoke about the work they do in the community and encouraged residents to contact them with questions and concerns.

Fire Chief Howard Fisher did not mention the department’s plight during his presentation, but confirmed afterward that outsourcing operations had been discussed as part of ongoing contract negotiations with the village.

The mayor did say, however, that he had no intention of transitioning to an all-volunteer department, as had been suggested by one resident at the forum, because he did not believe it was feasible. He said he wasn’t aware of any south suburban communities that had outsourced fire operations, but knew that others were also considering it in an effort to cut costs.

Because the department of approximately 30 firefighters is unionized, workers receive benefits and good salaries, which the mayor said has made sustaining it difficult. Village firefighters are compensated at a great rate, guaranteed a minimum number of hours, and have negotiated minimum manning requirements, he said.

“You’re talking about doing pensions for people that are working part-time,” said Denson, who estimated the village spends about $1.2 million annually on fire department payroll and operations.