Posts Tagged International City/County Management Association

Freeport Fire Department news

Excerpts from the

In 2001, Mike Pontius responded to an attic fire on Douglas Street that eventually took his life. The longtime Freeport firefighter was overcome with heat and never recovered from the incident. He passed away in 2016 from ailments related to the fire, giving his death “in the line of duty” status.

Mike spent 15 years after the 2001 fire dealing with ailments and an illness that eventually left him unable to walk. He never fully recovered from the 2001 fire. His wife, Dawn, says his behavior and decision-making changed, and his cognitive functions were weakened. An MRI indicated his brain was deteriorating. He suffered from seizures and spent a week in a coma.

The fire exposed him to a chemical called toluene that was found in his blood stream, causing a progression of brain damage, according to radiology reports. 

Now, his 21-year-old daughter, Kirsten, a junior at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, is learning some life lessons from her deceased father. She keeps a photo of him on her desk, talking to him when she studies, and says his perseverance still inspires her.

Kirsten recently was awarded a $3,000 scholarship from the International City/County Management Association to continue her education as a junior in the radiology program. The scholarship Kirsten was awarded is presented annually to surviving children and spouses of firefighters, police officers, and other public employees who have died in the line of duty.


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Lake Zurich looks for cuts in public safety budgets

The Chicago Tribune Trib Local has an article discussing a search for possible cuts to police and fire budgets in Lake Zurich:

As the village police chief considers cost-cutting measures, Lake Zurich village board members recently approved a study aimed at finding ways to save money within the fire department. The study comes after cuts over the last five years have reduced the department’s staff by six positions, according to fire Chief Dave Wheelock. Meanwhile, Police Chief Steve Husak is also exploring ways to cut costs, including a possible reorganization within his respective department.

The fire department study, which will cost up to $50,000, will be performed by the International City/County Management Association and take a little over four months to complete, officials said.  According to village documents, the study will look at the department’s organizational structure and culture, compare its practices to industry standards, check for increased efficiency and improved performance, and recommend appropriate staffing levels for all the department’s functions.

“I’m not exactly sure where the board is focused,” Wheelock said. “The study, I believe, is focused on finding efficiencies within the department. I don’t know that that necessarily translates into more cuts. They have different response models, maybe different types of vehicles. It’s a very encompassing report.”

The fire department already has very little fat to trim, Wheelock said. Since 2009, he said, they’ve been constantly looking for efficiencies in the department. That includes the fire prevention bureau losing half of its four members last year.

“We’re about as low as we can go in terms of that kind of staffing,” he said, pointing to the “jump companies” at all four stations — a three-person crew that mans both ambulances and fire trucks based on the type of call that comes in. “We think our operation will hold up pretty well to review.”

The fire department isn’t the only one in the village that has faced cuts over recent years, with 19 full-time positions having been eliminated since the 2010 fiscal year.

Budget restrictions earlier this year forced the village to postpone a similar study that was planned for the police department. Officials said with a new top cop taking the reins in April, they wanted to let Husak see if he could find any room for efficiencies before commissioning the examination.

Specifically, Husak said he was looking at things such as assigned and unassigned time for officers, hire-back practices and vacation and sick time. He said he hasn’t gotten any “marching order” as to whether cuts need to be made, and he’s not sure whether a reduction in force will be an option down the road.

Mayor Tom Poynton said that any savings would have to be significant in order for Lake Zurich to slash its police and fire services. “We’re not going to compromise the safety of the community for nickels and dimes,” he said. “It would have to be something that is significant.”

Previous post are HERE, HERE, and HERE.

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