Posts Tagged Chicago Ridge Fire Chief Robert Muszynski

Fire departments will no longer share fire chief

Excerpts from the

Chicago Ridge and Oak Lawn have agreed to end their yearlong experiment in sharing a fire chief.

After Chicago Ridge hires a full-time chief, George Sheets will return to only running the Oak Lawn Fire Department. Sheets said he asked to be relieved so he could focus solely on being Oak Lawn’s chief, a position he has held for six years.

Chicago Ridge Mayor Chuck Tokar said the village will miss Sheets, but “he said he won’t leave until we find a suitable replacement, even if that takes three or six months.” … and the unusual arrangement of towns sharing a fire chief  “was going well and I wish we could continue it.” But the pressures of running two fire departments is demanding.

Sheets has held both positions during the past year, spending roughly two days in Chicago Ridge each week. He replaced Robert Muszynski, who resigned in 2014 citing personal differences with some village officials, specifically Tokar, over possible changes to the fire department.

At the time, Tokar wanted to reopen the firehouse at 107th Street and Lombard Avenue without hiring the seven to eight firefighters that Muszynski said were needed to staff it. The station was reopened by using part-timers. An ad running on the website of the Illinois Fire Chiefs Association praises Sheets’ accomplishments in Chicago Ridge — including reopening the fire station and reducing personnel costs — and says the new chief’s salary will be negotiated based upon experience.

Besides getting the long-closed station reopened, Sheets started a part-time firefighter program that now has 11 members and will likely expand to about 15. He said the part-timers allow Chicago Ridge to have six firefighters on duty each shift, more than in the past, and the process is working well. Now, the station at 107th and Lombard is only open 12 hours a day but will go to 24 hours by August, he said.

Chicago Ridge had been paying one-third of Sheets’ salary, or $37,695, under an agreement between the two village boards last July.

Chicago Ridge has 13 full-time firefighters and 23 either part-time or paid-on-call firefighters. The fire department budget is $2.7 million for fiscal 2015, and the department answers about 2,600 calls annually … most of those are medical in nature.

Oak Lawn Mayor Sandra Bury said neither she nor the trustees demanded that Sheets return to full-time duty there. “No, no, no,” she said. “Everyone benefits from shared resources.”

thanks Dan

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Oak Lawn fire chief to add Chicago Ridge to his duties

The Southtown Star has an article about a replacement for the Chicago Ridge fire chief who resigned recently:

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.”

thanks Dan

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Chicago Ridge fire chief resigns (more)

Excerpts from a Reporter Onlin article about the resignation of the Chicago Ridge fire chief:

The resignation last week of Chicago Ridge Fire Chief Robert Muszynski is the latest salvo in a heightening conflict between village officials and the fire department. Muszynski resigned citing personal difference with the village’s elected officials.

Mayor Chuck Tokar confirmed that he asked for Muszynski’s resignation. “Obviously, it’s a mayoral appointment. So I pretty much had to be the bearer of bad tidings and ask him to submit his resignation,” Tokar said Tuesday.

Firefighters are livid and are campaigning for Tokar to rehire Muszynski. Posts on the union’s Facebook page were critical of Tokar and the administration and is asking for Chicago Ridge residents to urge officials to bring him back.

“Call the village hall and tell your mayor and trustees to bring back Chief Muszynski. He was a great chief and person. He didn’t deserve to lose his job or forced to retire. He was great with the guys at the firehouse and loved by many residents. This is just not right,” one poster wrote.
“Total hypocrisy. It seems these ‘men’ are on the ‘do as we say, not as we do’ plan. Sounds like a certain mayor can’t play fair and honor the contracts, so pan his firemen off to another village. I’d love to see him go through the rigorous training and drills you all had to in order to get your firefighter and medic licenses and degrees, then do your jobs,” another poster commented.

Muszynski, who took over as chief in early 2011, supported the hiring of an additional seven or eight firefighters/paramedics who would be based at the fire station at 107th Street and Lombard Avenue, Tokar said. That station currently is used for training and to store equipment, the mayor said. However, some residents have asked the village to consider having a second ambulance and possibility a fire truck at that station, which would reduce the response time to a large number of homes in the village.

The village’s main fire station is located in an industrial park and is not located near much of the village’s residential area. Tokar said the village cannot absorb the costs of staffing a second station.

Tokar, who was elected April, 2013, said he has explored “other options” for fire protection in the village, including obtaining services from a fire protection district or another community, such as Oak Lawn. Worth, which previously had its own fire department, signed a contract with the North Palos Fire Protection District a few years ago. Whatever decision the village makes, Tokar said he does not intend to “disband or dissolve” the fire department, which currently has 13 full-time firefighter/paramedics, the mayor said.

… Tokar was directed by trustees to “investigate and report to the board cost-saving measures that might save our taxpayers money while increasing the level of fire and ambulance service.” Dissolving the fire department and contracting with a private ambulance service are not under consideration, [according to a letter to residents from the village]  The village’s letter also pointed out that village and the union are in the midst of contract negotiations and noted that none of the Chicago Ridge firefighters live in Chicago Ridge.

thanks Dan

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Chicago Ridge fire chief resigns

The Southtown Star has an article about the resignation of Chicago Ridge Fire Chief Robert Muszynski:

Citing “personal differences” with the village’s elected officials, Chicago Ridge Fire Chief Robert Muszynski has resigned over differences about changes the village is considering for the fire department. Muszynski’s resignation comes a few weeks after the village board encouraged Mayor Chuck Tokar to look at whether firefighter and/or ambulance service could be provided more efficiently. Now, firefighters say they’re worried about their jobs.

Changes could include hiring a private ambulance service, joining a fire protection district or adding a second ambulance at the former fire house at 107th Street and Lombard Avenue, Tokar said. Three older fire trucks are stored there and mainly used for training by paid-on-call firefighters, he said. The on-call firefighters sometimes are used when the village is busy with another call.

The main firehouse opened five years ago in an industrial park on Chicago Ridge’s west side, roughly two to three miles from the heart of the village’s residential area. Tokar and the board are concerned the distance may waste precious moments for ambulance calls that sometimes are answered by neighboring communities.

Adding a second ambulance would necessitate hiring up to eight more firefighters, Muszynski said.

That’s not in the cards in part because it would push the village’s annual pension levy upward of $1 million, Tokar countered. “We can’t afford to hire seven or eight to staff that 24/7. That’s way too expensive,” Tokar said.

When it became obvious that Muszynski would not budge, the board demanded his resignation through Tokar. The chief submitted his resignation letter Monday.

Firefighter/paramedic Christ Schmelzer, president of Chicago Ridge Professional Firefighters Local 3098, said “there’s a lot of tension in the firehouse.” “We basically fear for our jobs. No one has come over and told us to not worry. Everybody is running around scared,” he said.

Muszynski, 58, formerly of the Skokie and Schaumburg fire departments, was hired as chief in early 2011. Tokar said he was pleased with his performance as chief.

There’s no intention to lay off any full-time employees, Tokar said. Nevertheless, the fire department could be more efficient, he said. Ambulances from Alsip, Bridgeview, North Palos or Oak Lawn answer a large number of Chicago Ridge calls, he said. Another ambulance would keep more money in Chicago Ridge and help residents, he said. To slash costs the department could cut the number of firefighter/paramedics per call from two to one and stop sending a fire truck to every ambulance call, Tokar said.

In a June 4 interview, Schmelzer said there are 12 firefighter/paramedics and one lieutenant in the union, down from 17 a few years ago.

Local 3098 said in a letter that last year the fire department had 2,424 requests for service, with 1,599 of those for an ambulance. The department handled 87 percent of those calls, and outside agencies only were called in when they were busy on other calls, according to the letter.

The letter does say there are admittedly upsides to a protection district but urges all facets of any potential merger must be examined. Meanwhile, the village’s letter sent last week to residents hints that big changes are possible, saying they would “have no problem” with a fire department staffed by part-timers.

Both sides are in the midst of contract negotiations, which often can filled with heated exchanges and accusations.

The starting salary for firefighters is $45,000 Schmelzer said, but there’s been only one new hire in 10 years. Low staffing has forced overtime, and the village paid $45,000 in overtime over six weeks, Schmelzer said. The village said the highest base salary with benefits is more than $100,000 annually, counting overtime.

Tokar said he plans to talk with more fire department efficiency experts on ways to improve things in Chicago Ridge.

thanks Dieterich 

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