Posts Tagged Des Plaines FD to buy ambulance

Des Plaines ambulance controversy (more)

The Daily Herald has an article about the approval of a new ambulance in Des Plaines following some controversy:

There won’t be much that distinguishes the Des Plaines Fire Department’s new $231,330 ambulance once it hits the street later this year — except the story of how it came to be.

The city council voted 5-4 Monday to purchase a so-called horizontal exhaust ambulance as part of an annual replacement program, with Mayor Matt Bogusz casting a tiebreaking vote. The decision came after a vote last month to purchase a vertical exhaust ambulance, which supporters argue is a safer and healthier alternative because it releases potentially dangerous diesel fumes away from firefighters and the public through a vertical smoke stack — not a tailpipe.

Bogusz, who said the vertical exhaust ambulance was a “solution in search of a problem,” asked aldermen on March 17 to reconsider their first vote and approve a resolution to rescind. One alderman, Jack Robinson of the 2nd Ward, originally voted for a vertical exhaust ambulance but switched his vote.

Aldermen who have been in favor of a vertical exhaust ambulance all along cried foul over how the process was conducted since the council’s first vote March 3 — much of it directed at the mayor, who placed the resolution to rescind on the council’s March 17 meeting agenda.

Robinson, providing his first public explanation for switching his vote, said he “reanalyzed” his vote following the March 3 meeting.

Fifth Ward Alderman Jim Brookman, a former Des Plaines firefighter who proposed the vertical exhaust system for ambulances, joined Haugeberg and 4th Ward Alderman Dick Sayad in saying that the council should look at changing its rules to prevent the mayor from placing resolutions to rescind on future meeting agendas.

Again arguing his case for a vertical exhaust ambulance, Brookman pointed to studies linking diesel exhaust fumes to cancer, and mentioned three Des Plaines firefighters by name who died from cancer. He said the price to buy a vertical exhaust ambulance would only be an extra $1,500, plus another $45,000 to retrofit exhaust capture systems at all three fire stations.

Fire Chief Alan Wax said newer ambulances with horizontal exhaust dissipate fumes more quickly than old ambulances, and meet newer EPA standards. Neither fire department personnel nor the public was being exposed to dangerous levels of exhaust from ambulances, he added.

“This is based on facts, not emotions,” Wax said.

“The implication this comes from emotion, I find highly offensive,” Brookman responded. “You think I’m emotional?” he told Wax. “I think you lack professional judgment in this area.”

Thanks Dan

Last week, the JournalOnline had an article looking into possible motivations behind the controversy surrounding the vertical exhaust ambulance purchase:

Ald. Jim Brookman (5th) yesterday (Thursday) denied that his push to change the exhaust system on Des Plaines’ ambulances is motivated by aiding a worker’s compensation claim for his deceased friend.

Tom Veverka was employed as a Des Plaines firefighter between October 1972 and April 2009. In a claim against the city filed with the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission, Veverka claimed he developed lung cancer as a result of exposure to diesel fumes during his 37 years with the fire department. Veverka also suffered from brain cancer and passed away on Sept. 18, 2009.

That claim was filed on July 28, 2009, according to the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission website. The next hearing date is scheduled for May 9 in downtown Chicago.

Tom Veverka’s widow, Marianne Veverka, is now the petitioner on that worker’s compensation claim. Documents recently provided to the Journal & Topics Newspapers state that she is seeking as much as $500,000 as a settlement from the city for a death benefit. The city had previously offered $15,000, which was rejected.

The city of Des Plaines group health insurance covered about $400,000 in medical bills for Tom Veverka while he was alive, according to one of the documents. Further, Tom Veverka was a longtime smoker, consuming a pack and a half of cigarettes a day for 20 years until 2008, the document also claims.

Brookman, a firefighter himself since 1974, had a friendship with Veverka through their entire careers. He testified during hearings on Veverka’s workers’ compensation claim in 2013. Brookman said Thursday he was summoned to testify as a former fireman who had relevant knowledge of the case going back his entire career.

Brookman has been fighting for the city to change the exhaust systems on its ambulances. The issue has been discussed at several city council meetings since the most recent ambulance purchase came before aldermen in early March. Brookman, citing studies conducted by health organizations, has argued expelling the fumes at ground level is harmful to firefighters and paramedics who must work near the vehicles when they are responding to calls.

Brookman became emotional several times during recent council meetings when mentioning Tom Veverka and his exposure to ambulance fumes. To decrease that risk, Brookman has advocated for vertical exhaust systems to be installed on new ambulances. A vertical system would transfer exhaust up the vehicle, releasing the materials in the air where they are less likely to be inhaled by people on the ground.

Brookman said during Monday’s discussion on a new horizontal exhaust ambulance that the city should be held accountable if any health impacts result from the diesel fumes. It was a claim he repeated to the Journal & Topics Thursday.

“If any harm comes from that choice the city should be held accountable,” Brookman said. He admonished fellow city officials for deliberately choosing not to address the dangers.

Ald. Joanna Sojka (7th) Monday said she was disappointed in Brookman’s statements. “I have no idea why you would say that and open the city to such a risk,” she said during the council meeting.

When questioned by the Journal, Brookman denied that he had made such statements to bolster Veverka’s workers’ compensation claim against the city. “It has nothing to do with this at all,” Brookman said of the relationship between the workers’ compensation case and his fight for better exhaust systems. He specified that he never claimed Tom Veverka died due to diesel exhaust. “I’m just upset that people like Tom Veverka are exposed to an additional risk,” he said.

He called the Journal’s questions “insulting.” He also said his efforts had nothing to do with Marianne Veverka’s one-time ownership of his home at 702 Howard Ave., Des Plaines.

Brookman and his wife, Carla, a former alderman herself, purchased the lot near Lake Park in late 2013 for $175,000, according to records from the Cook County Recorder of deeds. Brookman took out a construction mortgage on the property for $1,287,400 on Aug. 13, 2004. The Brookmans then took out a second mortgage on the property on July 19, 2005 for $677,700. The bank began foreclosure proceedings against the property in February 2010, according to the Cook County Recorder of Deeds.

The Brookmans sold the home on Dec. 13, 2010 to James Nelson and Marianne Veverka for $495,000. Marianne Veverka sold her interest in the home to Nelson just a few weeks later on Jan. 12, 2011, making him the sole owner of the home.

However, the Brookmans continue to reside at the property. Following that sale the property taxes on the home dropped dramatically.

Cook County gave the home an equalized assessed value of $429,482 in 2008 and an assessed value of $152,918. Brookman paid $26,950 in property taxes that year.

The equalized assessed value in 2009 was $331,421. The plot was initially assessed at $124,633 but Brookman successfully appealed to the Cook County Board of Review and the assessment was lowered to $104,276. For the 2010 taxes Brookman again appealed to the Board of Review and the assessed value went from $97,893 initially down to only $50,000. That was also the year he sold the home to Nelson and Veverka.

As the recession went on between 2008 and 2010 the equalized assessed value of the home fell from $429,482 to $159,000. As a result, the real estate taxes on the property went from $26,950 in 2008 to $11,428.92 two years later following the sale of the property. Brookman said Veverka’s brief ownership of his home was a private real estate matter that did not influence his advocacy for a vertical ambulance exhaust system. “She is not investing in this property at all,” he said of the current ownership of the home.

thanks Drew

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Des Plaines ambulance controversy (more)

The Chicago Tribune has an article which follow a previous post concerning a decision to cancel the purchase of an ambulance that had been approved in Des Plaines.

Weeks after Des Plaines leaders nixed a previously approved ambulance purchase, three aldermen want the Illinois attorney general’s office or an outside legal firm to examine the validity of that move.

The three aldermen — Patricia Haugeberg, Dick Sayad and Jim Brookman — have asked to talk about the topic at the upcoming City Council meeting, city documents show.

A resolution approving the ambulance purchase passed in a 5-3 vote at the March 3 City Council meeting. A resolution rescinding that decision passed at the March 17 meeting, with Mayor Matt Bogusz breaking a 4-4 tie.

That initial approval came following intense debate over whether the exhaust pipe should be located underneath the ambulance chassis — called a horizontal exhaust system — or above the ambulance in a vertical exhaust system.

Citing the frequency with which ambulances idle on the scene of service calls, Brookman — a former Des Plaines firefighter — successfully lobbied his colleagues to reject the horizontal system that he said exposes firefighters and patients to potentially dangerous exhaust fumes. The city’s own fire chief, however, disagreed with the need for the vertical exhaust system.

“Right now, our practices don’t put people in the way of fumes,” Chief Alan Wax said at the time of the purchase approval.

In introducing the rescission resolution at the March 17 meeting, Bogusz said the council had found “a solution in search for a problem.”

He said selecting an ambulance with a vertical exhaust system was unnecessary and the move was beyond the scope of the council.

“It’s not a policy decision. It’s an operation decision,” Bogusz told aldermen, according to video of the March 17 meeting posted on the city’s website. “This body needs to work to stick a little closer to policy.”

thanks Dan

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Des Plaines ambulance controversy

The Daily Herald has an article about an unusual turn of events surrounding the purchase of a new ambulance in Des Plaines:

Des Plaines was set to become one of only a handful of suburban municipalities with a vertical exhaust ambulance, which city council supporters say is safer than the current fleet of vehicles that releases harmful diesel fumes at ground level near firefighters and the public.

Others, including Des Plaines Fire Chief Alan Wax and Mayor Matt Bogusz, say purchasing an ambulance with a vertical exhaust system may have been trying to fix a problem that doesn’t exist. That’s why Bogusz asked the council Monday to rescind the purchase., [and] cast the deciding vote, breaking the council’s 4-4 tie, and officially rescinding the ambulance purchase.

Fifth Ward Alderman Jim Brookman, a retired Des Plaines firefighter who pushed for the vertical exhaust ambulance purchase, said he doesn’t recall a Des Plaines mayor ever pushing for a resolution to rescind a previous council vote. “I think the motion to rescind was improper and illegal,” said Brookman, who promised to ask the Office of the Illinois Attorney General for an opinion on the matter.

“It’s my belief this is a solution in search for a problem,” Bogusz said. “It’s not a policy decision. It’s an operational decision. I believe this body needs to work to stick a little bit closer to policy.”

Though the council approved the purchase March 3, fire department officials didn’t make the purchase.

The fire chief said he believes there isn’t a problem with the current horizontal exhaust ambulance fleet, since new vehicle emission standards disperse fumes quicker than before. Fire department officials surveyed 40 nearby communities — two of which, Evanston and Winnetka, had vertical exhaust ambulances. Wax said ambulance manufacturers interviewed by the Northwest Municipal Conference Suburban Purchasing Cooperative report selling and making few ambulances with vertical exhaust systems.

Brookman said Des Plaines needed to go “above and beyond” to protect firefighters and the public who could be harmed by exposure to diesel fumes from idling vehicles. He cited health studies from the World Health Organization that show diesel fumes contribute to cancer risk. At the March 3 council meeting, Brookman became emotional when talking about Des Plaines firefighters he knew who died of cancer, including his best friend.

It would only cost an extra $1,500 to put a vertical exhaust system on an ambulance, but would cost $75,000 to add a vertical exhaust capture system in fire stations.

On Monday, Brookman and Wax engaged in a heated back-and-forth dialogue about whether there was a problem with the current fleet of ambulances, which give off emissions from tailpipes at the back of vehicles. 

“I was on the ambulance for 15 years of my 30 years on the job,” Brookman said. “There’s no way to be on the ambulance and not breathe diesel fumes that are pumped out of the side of the ambulance. It’s impossible. I don’t understand how you can say there is not a problem.”

Wax said he didn’t have any evidence to suggest fumes were making their way into ambulances.

“It does go in the back because I’ve been on the rig,” Brookman responded, “and I know when you open the doors, the air goes inside, and if there’s diesel fumes all around the rig, it goes in. There’s no way for it not to happen.”

“I don’t know there are diesel fumes all around the rig,” Wax countered.

“If they’re pumped out the side of the rig, where the hell do they go?” Brookman said.

“They dissipate into the air. They go whatever direction the wind is going,” Wax said.

“They come up from the ground and you breathe them if you’re standing in the fumes. I’ve been on thousands of calls and so have you,” Brookman told Wax. “I don’t get it. They’re breathing diesel fumes. The public is breathing them and so are the firefighters. How in the world can you say they’re not breathing diesel fumes?”

Following the council’s rejection of the vertical exhaust ambulance, Bogusz asked aldermen to approve the $226,229 purchase of a horizontal exhaust ambulance. But 3rd Ward Alderman Denise Rodd’s motion to do so wasn’t seconded.

Wax said he will ask the council to approve an ambulance purchase at a time still to be determined. The department currently has five ambulances in service, and has been buying new ones as part of an annual replacement schedule.

thanks Dan

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Des Plaines to buy ambulance

The Chicago Tribune has an article about the Des Plaines Fire Department receiving approval for a new ambulance.

Officials say that, for the first time in five years, the Des Plaines Fire Department will purchase a new ambulance.

The emergency vehicle comes at a price tag of $220,591, an expenditure fire officials said was long overdue. The last ambulance purchased by the fire department was in 2007, Des Plaines Fire Chief Alan Wax said.

City staff members confirmed there are now adequate funds in the $4 million equipment replacement fund to cover the purchase, which Wax said will replace a faltering 2002 ambulance with 110,000 miles on it. The department currently rotates five ambulances, with many of the vehicles regularly out for mechanical problems, Wax said. Repair costs just a couple of weeks ago, Wax said, were in excess of $13,000.

The department had originally hoped to replace ambulances every two years, but has not maintained that schedule, he said. “All five of our ambulances have over 65,000 miles” on them, Wax said. “We know our call volume has increased by 9 percent and our three full-time, front line ambulances have been busier.”

Wax said the department’s current fleet includes a 2002 ambulance with 110,000 miles on it; a 2005 with 75,000 miles; a 2006 with 82,000 miles; a 2007 with 65,000 miles and a 2007 with 79,000 miles. Most vehicles are kept for 10 years, Wax said.


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