Excerpts from the ChicagoTribune.com:

The City of Highwood may contract with a private firm for the services of some firefighters and paramedics to ensure the level of staffing required for fire-insurance rating purposes.

According to City Manager Scott Coren, the Highwood Fire Department must have four people on duty to retain the  rating from the Insurance Services Office. The four-person staffing level also is required under Highwood’s collective bargaining agreement with its fire union, an affiliate of the International Association of Fire Fighters.

Under automatic-aid agreements, the city also is served by the Highland Park and Lake Forest departments and is available to assist them in return.

On April 8, the Highwood City Council, in a narrow 4-3 vote, directed staff to negotiate a contract with Kurtz Paramedic Services or another firm to provide supplemental full-time firefighters and ensure that Highwood maintains minimum manning requirements. The small department that serves the city of 5,400 residents currently has four full-time non-probationary firefighters/paramedics. A fifth full-time employee is within the probationary period. The full-time workforce is supplemented by part-time employees.  The council’s vote triggered a 30-day waiting period required by fire union contract. An agreement could be finalized as early as mid-May.

There are no plans to lay off the full-time, non-probationary firefighters/paramedics should the city contract with a private firm for supplemental personnel, the manager said.

Kurtz currently employs more than 750 people as firefighters and paramedics, according to Tom Vana, president and chief executive officer of the firm. It holds contracts with 26 municipalities and fire protection districts. Its client list includes the municipalities of Wheaton, Bensenville, Lyons, Tinley Park, Westmont and Crete and fire protection districts in South Chicago Heights, Frankfort and Plainfield.

Vana told the council the average experience of the firm’s firefighter/paramedic employees is a little less than 15 years. Should the firm win the contract, preferential hiring would be extended to Highwood employees unless an employee assigned elsewhere requests a transfer to work in Highwood, he said.

Addressing the Highwood City Council the night of the vote, Fire Battalion Chief David Mohry expressed concerns over the impact even a few private employees would have on a department of Highwood’s size. He also expressed worry about the rate of turnover.

thanks Dan