Excerpts from the ChicagoTribune.com:

The Merrionette Park Fire Department is apparently in revolt after the village didn’t reappoint three senior department officials and a longtime department secretary at its board meeting last month.

At least a dozen members of the paid on-call department have resigned since Deputy Chief Pat Carter, Capt. Tom Ziolkowski, Lt. Jim Carter and secretary Katie Quinn Schneider had their posts rescinded.

Firefighter Tony Calzaretta said it’s generally a given that village employees, who are reappointed by the mayor on one-year contracts each spring, will be retained unless they’ve engaged in some sort of misconduct. In instances where the village does rescind someone’s employment, it typically provides an explanation. That, however, did not happen in this case, he said.

The moves coincided with the installation of Thomas J. Wendt as the new fire chief on Monday. Wendt, a part-time fire lieutenant in Calumet Park and the former chief of the Dixmoor Fire Department, replaced longtime Chief Leonard Edling, who retired at the end of April.

Considered an outsider by longtime members of the department, Wendt joined the Merrionette Park Fire Department a couple months ago, around the time Edling announced he would be stepping down.

While firefighters believed from the beginning that Wendt had the inside track to replace Edling and had not been opposed to his appointment, it was still shocking that three of the department’s senior officials were let go without explanation around the time he was installed.

Village spokesman Pete DiCianni said he could not comment on why the senior department members had not been retained because it was a personnel matter. He said the mayor chose Wendt as the new chief because of his vast amount of leadership experience and the fact that he lived in Merrionette Park.

In a statement released Tuesday, Mayor Dennis Magee said the village was thankful to outgoing members of our fire protection community for their service, but did not otherwise acknowledge the resignations. He characterized the fire department resignations as sour grapes and said that many of those who resigned did not regularly respond to calls anyway.

According to data provided by the village, eight of the 12 firefighters who resigned had responded to less than 10 percent of emergency incidents this year. Three had not responded to any and one responded to only 1 percent of calls.

To make up for the loss in manpower, Wendt said in a note to the mayor that he plans to present the names of seven new fire department applicants at the village board meeting in May. He also plans to restructure the department’s operations by staffing the firehouse with two members at all times to respond to minor incidents. Additional manpower can be summoned for larger incidents, as necessary.

Previously, the firehouse was unmanned, and firefighters responded to pages from dispatchers when emergency calls came in, a process Wendt called inefficient with the potential to prove costly, because dozens of firefighters might respond to a minor incident that did not require all of them.

Three years of budget documents show that Merrionette Park paid around $150,000 annually to its firefighters, not including a $40,500 salary for the chief.

thanks Dan

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