Excerpts from the ChicagoTribune.com:

Calumet Park’a mayor told residents Saturday that he was considering outsourcing the village’s fire department. Speaking before a crowd of about 50 people during a citizens’ forum at the Calumet Park Recreation Center, he said the village was looking to cut costs in the wake of shrinking revenues.

“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.

Neither he nor Denson would discuss the content of the ongoing negotiations or what outsourcing the department might look like.

The mayor said 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 and that 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.

Money has been especially tight for Calumet Park since the closure of Ultra Foods, the community’s only traditional grocery store, last year. In addition to reducing the village’s fresh food options, the grocer’s demise wiped out one of the village’s major revenue streams.

Because the department of approximately 30 firefighters is unionized — a rarity for a part-time department — its 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.

The mayor did not offer a timeline for when a decision on the ultimate fate of the department might be forthcoming. He said he was still waiting on estimates of how much outsourcing fire protection services might cost.

thanks Scott and Mike