Posts Tagged Mattoon Fire Department

Mattoon Fire Department news

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A four page report asserting that Mattoon Fire Department pension costs are too high was recently mailed to more than 11,200 household and business addresses in the city limits.

Former Mattoon City Council member David Schilling wrote this critique. Mattoon Firefighters Local 691 has responded by saying that Schilling’s report skews its presentation of various financial figures regarding the fire department while not applying the same critical examination to other city departments or past actions by the city council.

Schilling, who served two terms as city finance commissioner from 2001 to 2009, said he has long been concerned about firefighter pension costs growing at a rate that he feels is financially unsustainable for the city.He started writing his report in January 2017 and went through many drafts before recently getting this critique ready for a mass mailing. He added that local businesses and community members anonymously donated money to cover the printing and mailing costs.

Schilling writes in his report that a firefighter can retire at age 50 with 20 years of experience, or 30 years for a full benefit, and then be eligible for a pension that grows at the rate of 3 percent compounded. He added that the pension program covers widows of firefighters, too. He wrote that the city’s annual firefighter pension payouts have increased from $1.2 million for 45 retirees in 2003 to $2.6 million for 55 retirees in 2018.

Schilling also writes about the city’s firefighter pension fund and the amount of money that city has to have in it based on the number and ages of the current and retired firefighters, and the percentage of funding. He wrote that the firefighter pension fund had net assets of $15.5 million in 2017, enough to fund only 30.4 percent of the $50.9 million in pension obligation for that year.

He said that the city also is facing similar levels of pension obligations and shortfalls in funding for the police pension fund.

“Pension cost issues have been predominately created by previous city councils not funding the pension plans,” said firefighter union president Bart Owen. “Firefighters have 9.43 percent deducted from our paychecks and have for years; yet the city did not fulfill their side of the deal. Now they are placing the blame on employees.”

Owen said pension plans are like retirement insurance and they balance retirement risk, like home or car insurance. He said participants contribute a set amount, like a premium, so it will cover them in retirement after they have worked for years and earned the benefit. As another example, he said everyone in Social Security eventually draws out more than they put into it. He added, “that’s the point or it would make no mathematical sense to create retirement systems.”

In addition, Owen said revisions to state law governing two tier pension systems for anyone hired in 2011 or later will save cities 25 percent on pension costs. He said new hires since then are no longer receiving 3 percent compounding yearly increases in their pensions. He also said the pensions are no longer based on the last day’s pay for a firefighter and are now based on an average eight of 10 years of salaries.

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Mattoon Fire Department news (more)

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As the end date approaches for the Mattoon Fire Department’s ambulance service, Mitchell-Jerdan Ambulance Service and Dunn’s Ambulance are getting ready to expand their fleet and staffs.

The fire department ambulance service is set to end July 25. The firefighters’ union is pushing to keep the fire department’s advanced life support capabilities as a backup for the two private ambulance providers. 

On July 18, the Mattoon City Council voted to get rid of the fire department’s ambulance service to save money.

Mitchell-Jerdan Ambulance Service is looking to increase its fleet from three to four ambulances, add more staff, and to make upgrades. Dunn’s has two ambulances in Mattoon and will add a third before July 25. Dunn’s also plans to hire more ambulance crews in Mattoon.

City officials in Mattoon said the fire department’s ambulance service duplicates the work of the private providers. The city filed a lawsuit against the union in May. Mattoon officials said the city is coming up with updated regulations for private ambulance services.

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Mattoon Fire Department news

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Mattoon Fire Chief Anthony Nichols says July 25 will be the last day Mattoon firefighters will operate ambulances. The Mattoon Firefighters Association has been involved in a legal battle with city leaders since July 2017, when the city council voted to end city-run ambulance services.

The city administrator has argued the city is losing about $600,000 a year through fire department-operated ambulances. With the change, two private companies will be operating Mattoon ambulances. They were previously sharing those duties with firefighters in a three-week rotation system.

Nichols says he expects an ordinance to regulate those private companies to be heard at the next Mattoon city council meeting, which is scheduled for July 3. He issued an email on Thursday to thank Mattoon firefighters for their work with the ambulance service.

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Mattoon Fire Department news

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The City of Mattoon is suing the Mattoon Firefighters Local 691 over an award that gives them the option to remove the ambulances from the City of Mattoon and to impact bargain the result of the award.  The city says the union is not complying with the arbitration, because an agreement has not been reached on the removal of the ambulances.

The union has been negotiating with the city of the successor contract since January.  The union thinks the best option is for the fire department to remain in the ambulance service and offered to reduce staff and cut department expenses to meet the city council’s monetary goals.

The city has said reducing manpower is the only way to achieve their goals. The parties have met a dozen times trying to come up with the best solution.

A separate Arbitration award was issued in April which required the city to bring the staffing level up to 30 and maintain it there in a manner consistent with the contract. Since May of last year, the city has reduced staffing to 22 members. The union says this is in direct violation of their contract.

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Mattoon Fire Department news

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The Mattoon Fire Department will have to hire a handful of new firefighters after a judge ruled that the city violated their contract last year. The department is supposed to have more than 30 firefighters, but right now they’re at 24.

The city says this is all because of money problems, and they plan to present a budget that’s not balanced for this year at their council meeting. Officials say they’ve been trying to cut back on city staff to close the deficit, but firefighters say enough is enough for cutting down their employees.

As firefighters have left there have been no new hires. After a judge’s ruling, that will change.

City Administrator Kyle Gill says it’s because the city is spending too much on staff and that the department was always at their minimum eight firefighters on duty, but firefighters had to work extra to make up for the empty slots.  Overtime jumped from 1,400 hours two years ago to 5,500 hours this fiscal year.

Even then, the city was spending less than having all 30 firefighters with fewer overtime.

Contract negotiations are at the end of this month and they might end up with less than 30 firefighters in a new contract, but it doesn’t seem like the fire department will let that be an option on the table. Mattoon city leaders are also expecting a ruling soon on whether or not the fire department will keep their ambulance service after the city council voted last year to get rid of it.


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New engine for Mattoon

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A combination rescue pumper that will take the place of two vehicles in the Mattoon Fire Department’s fleet is scheduled to be put into service on Monday.

The E-ONE rescue pumper has a 780-gallon water tank on a Typhoon chassis. The front bumper has a hydraulic cutter and spreader connected to an on-board hydraulic pump … and there is a remote control light tower. 

The city purchased the $564,626 rescue pumper with the help of a $285,715 Assistance to Firefighters grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Fire Chief Tony Nichols said he submitted the grant application on March 3, 2016, and received word on May 20, 2016, that money was awarded to purchase the new truck.

The fire department had been saving money get a new truck, but the grant was needed to make this purchase possible. The chief had applied for grant funding three to four times in past years without success. 

Now that the new rescue pumper is entering service, the department plans to sell its 1978 rescue truck and a 1987 engine online. The department’s 1993 rescue and 1998 engine will be kept in reserve.

From the Banner Fire Equipment Facebook page:

From Craig Hamrick’s post: Delivery day for Mattoon Rescue Engine 21!
This is the day that seems an eternity in coming, but makes all of the meetings and pre-build worth it. This is not only a beautiful rig, but is super functional as well. Thank you Mattoon Fire for trusting E-ONE and Banner Fire Equipment to build this awesome rig for you.

Mattoon FD Rescue Engine 21

photo from the Banner Fire Equipment Facebook page

Mattoon FD Rescue Engine 21

photo from the Banner Fire Equipment Facebook page

Mattoon FD Rescue Engine 21

photo from the Banner Fire Equipment Facebook page

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