Posts Tagged Oak Lawn FIre Department

Oak Lawn Fire Department news

Excerpts from the

Oak Lawn Village Manager Larry Deetjen has hired Michael Mavrogeorge as the new fire chief and Zachary Riddle as deputy chief. A press release didn’t mention that the village plans to continue the same labor relations that have driven a wedge between management and the firefighters union but did mention that the two men have been briefed on the issues.

Mavrogeorge has served the last ten years as fire chief and emergency management director of the St. Louis Downtown Airport. He currently serves as vice president of the International Association of Fire Chiefs Great Lakes Division. He is an instructor at the University of the Illinois Fire Service Institute in the Special Operations Training Program since 2005, and an instructor for the National Center for Biomedical Research and Training at Louisiana State University.

Deetjen called the fire department’s labor disputes the number one fiscal issue which is creating a negative impact for all departments due to the demands for funding. During this administration, he has successfully reduced the number of sworn personal in the department from 104 to 65.

The village manager, mayor, and the majority of the board have told the firefighter’s union that due to the reduced staffing, there are too many officers. The administration is expected to demand that the number of officers be reduced and that the starting salary for new firefighters be reduced.

According to sources within the fire department’s union membership and former membership, the village manager intends to push for a reduction in minimum manning in court once again. The village has been previously unable to reduce the number despite spending millions in legal fees.

Deetjen, perhaps in reference to outsourcing paramedic service, noted in the press release that the two men “…will exploit opportunities and partnerships  when such actions complement customer service and the Village’s million, values and fiscal constraints.”

Riddle has served as the deputy chief of operations for the Bloomingdale Fire Protection District No. 1. He rose through the ranks holding the positions of captain/acting shift commander in addition to other capacities for the Pleasantview Fire Protection District, serving the communities of Countryside, Indian Head Park, Hodgkins and parts of Burr Ridge, Willowbrook and LaGrange-Highlands. He is also a career officer achieving the rank of lieutenant-colonel in the U.S. Army Reserve, and served as chief of staff in the 303rd Maneuver Enhancement Brigade with assignments overseas.

Both men assumed their positions on Wedensday June 13th.

thanks Keith

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Oak Lawn Fire Department news

Excerpts from the

Last year, the Village of Oak Lawn received public accolades for accepting a SAFER Grant to hire additional firefighters. Well, it turns out that the village administration’s acceptance was conditioned on the fire department members’ union, Local 3405, agreeing to a reduction in the minimum manning numbers that have been, and continue to be, the biggest disagreement since Governor Rauner met Speaker Madigan.  In any case, the village has notified the union that since there was no agreement, the village has cancelled the acceptance of the $1,347,000 federal grant. The union, which stayed out of the last municipal election because it didn’t want things to get worse if the mayor won, has recently filed another unfair labor practice against the village. One former firefighter told us, “There have been so many (Unfair Labor Practice complaints), we’ve lost count.”  The anti-union actions haven’t hurt the board politically so don’t expect any change in rhetoric or action.

thanks Dan

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Oak Lawn Fire Department news (more)

Excerpts from the

Oak Lawn’s former Fire Chief George Sheets submitted his resignation recently after the mayor and board of trustees butted heads with the chief on questions of policy regarding the ongoing labor negotiations with the Oak Lawn Professional Fire Fighters Local 3405.

According to sources close to Sheets, the former chief vehemently disagreed with the board majority’s edict that he support a reduction in the minimum manning number as well as other hard line stances. The same sources said that he agreed that a reduction would be acceptable but the board’s number was  too low and other ideas were morale killers that wouldn’t be approved in arbitration or in a court case.

Sheets had been a stalwart supporter of the mayor and the board majority even allowing the mayor to use his name in a political mailer in which he disavowed his own public comments regarding the fire department. Despite that support, sources close to Sheets said that the pressure of working with a board that micromanages the department had gotten to him and the last year has been one in which he was seen as disloyal.

Sheets also served as chief of Chicago Ridge but recently questioned the arrangement noting that he had 15 bosses including two mayors, one village manager, and 12 trustees. In addition to the union negotiations, he reportedly disagreed with the board’s decision to rescind its SAFER Grant application.

Sheets told several individuals that he believes the members of the department need to be treated with respect during negotiations and the hard line demands of the village manager and the board are unreasonable.

thanks Dan

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Oak Lawn Fire Department news

Excerpts from the

Oak Lawn Fire Chief George Sheets, who has pulled double duty as chief of neighboring Chicago Ridge, is out as the fire chief of Oak Lawn. The specifics of how, why, when, and where are being sorted out but the who in the story so far is Sheets. Chicago Ridge’s Mayor sent a letter to Oak Lawn’s Village Manager Larry Deetjen last Thursday informing him that Chicago Ridge was ending the arrangement that has been in place since July of 2014 and which allowed both village leaders to pat themselves on the back for thinking outside the box. Tokar’s letter did not have an explanation although according to Chicago Ridge sources, Tokar met with Sheets and another employee of the village last week. Shortly thereafter, Sheets met with Oak Lawn’s village manager. Sheets has been chief in Oak Lawn for nine years and has 36 years of fire service in various fire departments.

Sheets appeared in a controversial piece of literature paid for by Mayor Sandra Bury’s campaign in 2017 and is considered a favorite of Deetjen. However, Sheets dropped the other shoe and announced to the fire department that he is retiring as of July 2018. But wait, there’s more because on Tuesday the village manager is asking the board to approve an agreement that removes Sheets as chief but places him in some kind of advisory role that doesn’t exist in the Illinois Municipal Code for a fire department employee. That’s a very long transition period and not standard operating procedure. If you’re confused, stay tuned because the village board will be asked to vote for this agreement even though it isn’t on the agenda for Tuesday. If you look at the agenda, it states, Action on Executive Session Items.  Who’s hiding what and where are they hiding it?

thanks Keith

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Oak Lawn Fire Department history

This from Mike Summa:

Here is a picture of Oak Lawn Truck 12, a 1970’s rear mount aerial.  This was built by American Fire Apparatus of Battle Creek, Michigan. I believe this was built on a low-profile Oshkosh chassis.  Enjoy and comment.
Mike Summa


Oak Lawn FD Truck 2 vintage photo

Mike Summa photo

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Oak Lawn Fire Department news

Excerpts from the

The Oak Lawn Leaf has learned that the Village of Oak Lawn has offered the firefighter/paramedics a buyout of $5.3 million dollars in exchange for the union dropping the minimum manning provision from its contract. The $5.3 million dollars would apparently be split among the current firefighters and paramedics although details of how that money would be divided was not provided to the Oak Lawn Leaf by our sources, who asked that they not be identified.

Minimum manning has been a controversial sticking point between the union’s membership and the village manager who has pursued litigation in an attempt to rude the number of employees in the department.

The village board recently changed attorneys for negotiating the next labor contract with the firefighters in perhaps a sign that the village was considering an alternative strategy to the one that has been unsuccessful for almost a decade.

The village, which currently pays approximately two million dollars to the firefighters in overtime every year, would recoup the money through the elimination of overtime. The union has previously contended that the village’s failure to hire enough firefighters and paramedics has made the overtime necessary.

In January of 2017, only months before the mayoral election, Arbitrator Steven M. Bierig, issued a 195 page decision that found in favor of the union on minimum manning and six other issues, while finding in favor of the village on two issues and allowing the court to determine the final issue regarding out of state residency.

Despite the village arguing during the arbitration hearing that the minimum manning number was in excess of what is necessary to protect the village, the arbitrator applied three factors from case law to uphold the number. He said the minimum manning number has worked as intended. He noted that it was uncontested that the village has been fighting fires with 21 employees on a shift. The village argued that the number should be reduced to 19 members per shift and that the number was imminently reasonable. The village presented an expert witness who testified that the they could function with three rather than four per engine. The firefighter’s union countered the argument noting that the system of having 21 employees has worked well for the village’s safety.

The union contended evidence shows that by implementing the plan that the village requested would be counter intuitive. According to the union’s argument, “It would actually impede the ability of the village to effectively respond to fires.” The union also presented an expert witness who testified that four employees on an engine is far preferable to three in terms of fighting fires. 

As an example, the union noted that with four on an engine, one company can arrive at a fire and immediately begin to fight it. “If the village’s proposal was implemented, it would require two pieces of equipment in order to begin to fight a fire, which is not the most efficient approach to fire fighting. By having to rely more heavily on mutual aid, it places the citizens of the village in a vulnerable position in which, at times, it must rely upon the willingness of a neighboring community to assist. This is not feasible and should be rejected.”

The village’s argument that the change in minimum manning was a minor change was discarded by the arbitrator finding that the proposal to reduce the minimum manning number was a major modification.

The arbitrator referred to previous arbitration disputes between the parties and noted that Arbitrator Benn was confronted with the same issue in the prior case between these parties. Bierig wrote, “In rejecting the same issue, he held: The village seeks a sea change to the manning system – specifically, the ability to reduce minimum manning from four to three employees on an engine, i.e., a 25% reduction – when the system has been in place for 20 years and was formulated with the mutual intent ” … for purposes of efficient response to emergency situations and for reasons of employee safety… ” with a mandate that if those agreed upon levels are not met, ” … employees shall be hired back pursuant to Section 6.4. ‘Overtime Distribution’” as expressed in Section 7.9(a) of the Firefighter Agreement [emphasis added]. The village does not seek this sea change because the manning system is operationally broken. Rather, the village seeks this sea change because the manning system is costly. That is not a basis for an interest arbitrator to change such a safety provision as important as minimum manning. Where one party (here, the Union) seeks to maintain the status quo and there is no demonstration by the party seeking the change (here, the village) that the system is broken, that kind of change must come through the bargaining process.”

thanks Dan

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Oak Lawn Fire Department news

Excerpts from an editorial at the

I have come to expect the Village of Oak Lawn administration to twist any local challenge into an indictment of the firefighters who protect the citizens in the community. 

It’s become a predictable pattern due to Village Manager Larry Deetjen’s unhealthy obsession to slash the fire department staffing levels at any cost.

However, I must admit the latest maneuver by Deetjen did catch me by surprise because it flies in the face of common sense and sound financial stewardship. He recently announced the village might choose to walk away from the grant if he’s unsuccessful in extorting concessions from the Oak Lawn Firefighter’s Union.

First — kudos to the Oak Lawn Fire Department Administration for taking the initiative and being awarded a $1.35 million SAFER (Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response) Grant from the federal government. The grant to hire seven full-time firefighters was awarded in response to the department’s application for assistance to maintain nationally recognized staffing levels to best provide emergency services.

However, the real winners here are the Oak Lawn taxpayers. Despite Deetjen’s spin, the SAFER grant will save the village over $1.5 million dollars in existing overtime costs over the next three years. Period.

Despite what Deetjen might have you believe, the seven firefighters who stand to be hired using the grant will not be used to increase the daily fire department staffing at an additional cost. Instead, they will be used to backfill daily vacancies caused by a significant decrease in personnel over the past decade — an unfortunate result of Deetjen’s quest to reduce public safety levels in the village.

The only real decision is to pay for personnel using Oak Lawn taxpayer dollars or by bringing federal dollars back to Illinois. It’s that simple.

Although I would normally disagree with Deetjen’s recent statement to the village board that decisions regarding staffing a fire department are business and not about public safety, in this case it can be both.

I hope the village manager and mayor can temporarily set aside their animosity and take a win for the fire department, the village and its taxpayers.

Either way the Oak Lawn firefighters will continue to provide the exceptional emergency services you’ve come to know and expect.

Pat Devaney, president of the Associated Fire Fighters of Illinois

thanks Dan

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As seen around … Oak Lawn

From Dennis McGuire, Jr.

Oak Lawn FD Squad 1

Dennis McGuire, Jr. photo

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New ambulances for Oak Lawn (more)

From the Fire Service, Inc. Facebook page:

Congratulations and Thank You to Chief George Sheets and the Oak Lawn Fire Department on their recent delivery of two (2) 2017 Wheeled Coach Type I, F450 Ambulances. These brand new units feature custom interior and exterior cabinetry, patented COOLBAR HVAC System, Liquid Spring Suspension System, plus many other custom features that make these units perfect additions to the OLFD Fleet. Oak Lawn has been a loyal RevGroup customer for many years and we appreciate their continued trust in both our E-One and Wheeled Coach products.

new ambulance for the Oak Lawn Fire Department

Fire Service, Inc. photo

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Oak Lawn Fire Department news

Excerpts from the

Accepting a $1.35 million federal grant to hire seven firefighters might seem like a no-brainer for a municipality, but in Oak Lawn, where a rift between the village administration and its firefighters’ union has derailed contract negotiations in recent years, the decision isn’t so simple.

While the village board voted unanimously last week to accept the $1,347,952 Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response grant — with the support of both the village manager and the firefighters union president — it’s far from a done deal.

Because the three-year grant requires the village pick up 25 percent of the new hires’ cost for the first two years and 65 percent of the cost in the third year, Oak Lawn would be on the hook for more than $930,000 if it appointed the seven additional firefighters.

For that reason, the village manager said he would recommend aborting the grant, which the village still has the ability to cancel, if the administration is unable to come to some agreement with the union on certain economic issues in the coming months.

Village officials declined to say what specifically they sought from the union in contract negotiations outside of a way to reduce overtime costs, which have ballooned to nearly $3 million per year.

The steep overtime price tag is driven by reduced staffing levels, which have been shrinking for years and are down more than 30 percent since the early 2000s, union president Vince Griffin said.

The village administration still considers the department bloated, despite its reduced manpower, and would like to see additional downsizing through attrition as firefighters retire in the coming years.

In spite of those sentiments, the village manager supported accepting the SAFER grant and increasing staff levels by seven because it’s expected to allow the village to significantly reduce overtime costs at a discount. The village is under no obligation to retain the seven new hires after the grant expires in three years if doing so is not financially prudent, officials said.

“This is about business, not public safety,” the village manager said at the Sept. 12 board meeting. “There’s no public safety be enhanced by accepting this grant. It’s to reduce overtime, stop hemorrhaging of the budget.”

A white paper authored by Fire Chief George Sheets estimates that to break even on the village’s $933,436 outlay, the department would need to reduce overtime by 710 work days over the next three years.

By Sheets’ calculations, the addition of seven firefighters would generate 700 extra work days per fiscal year, or 2,100 over the three-year lifespan of the grant.

Any additional savings beyond the $933,436 would be put toward the department’s long-term pension liabilities, officials said.

He would not say how much savings he anticipates realizing by accepting the grant and appointing additional firefighters, but made clear that simply breaking even —saving just enough to pay off the village’s $933,436 obligation but no more — was not sufficient.

Two factors that could impact the village’s savings are the pace of future retirements and the amount of time off firefighters request.

Even if the department gains seven new firefighters initially, as older firefighters retire — at least seven will be eligible to do so within the next three years — staffing could return to pre-grant levels or even lower in the coming years since the village does not intend to backfill all departures, officials said. For every firefighter who retires and is not replaced, Oak Lawn realizes less overtime savings from the new hires brought on through the grant.

Another uncertainty involves how firefighters respond to an increase in manpower.

If the larger staff size results in firefighters changing their sick leave and vacation habits in a way that increases the need for overtime, it could also put a dent in the savings, village officials said.

Griffin, the union president, said he believes that while technically possible, it is “highly improbable” that firefighters would change their sick leave and vacation habits as a result of staffing increases.

Griffin said that while he strongly supports Oak Lawn’s acceptance of the SAFER grant, he was not aware the village did not intend to replace all firefighters who retired.

Griffin added that the union views the grant and the successive collective bargaining agreement as mutually exclusive, and that he was not aware the village expected the union to compromise in some fashion as a condition of appointing additional firefighters.

He said he considered the SAFER grant a standalone — a mutually beneficial arrangement that would decrease overtime costs for the village and enhance firefighter life safety by reducing wear and tear on the department — and insisted the union had conveyed that to the village administration in previous discussions.

The upcoming contract negotiations, he said, were an entirely separate issue.

The administration takes a different view. By appointing seven new firefighters at a cost of $933,436 without the guarantee of recouping that money, it bears all the risk, officials said. The village therefore hopes to rectify that perceived imbalance with the union through compromise.

The parties are currently scheduled to begin negotiating a new collective bargaining agreement on Nov. 29 with two subsequent meeting dates planned for December. The department’s current contract, which was arbitrated earlier this year after negotiations stalled, ends on Dec. 31.

It remains to be seen whether the parties can work out a mutually agreeable deal that will allow the village to feel comfortable appointing seven new firefighters, but both sides said they had been encouraged by recent informal discussions about the SAFER grant and would bargain in good faith.

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