Excerpts from the ChicagoTribune.com:

The Tri-State Fire Protection District has been busy. In the past five months, the district has gotten two new fire engines, passed a referendum to extend its boundaries, negotiated a new contract with its firefighters, and hired five new firefighters.

The district is in the process of hiring a sixth firefighter, which will bring the district up to full staff for firefighters and paramedics, said acting fire chief Patrick Brenn.

Don Bulat, Tri-State firefighter and president of Tri-State Firefighter’s Local 3165, said the district had been short staffed for at least three years and had to pay its firefighters overtime to cover extra shifts.

The district administration and the firefighters also settled at least eight grievances and lawsuits over various issues, including promotion criteria, sick leave, and negotiations for a new contract, said Eric Habercoss, president of the Tri-State Board of Trustees. The last contract expired in 2012. Prior to his election to the board last year, the district had charged the firefighters were not negotiating in good faith.

Bulat said the previous board and the fire chief handpicked the deputy chiefs, without testing applicants first. The new contract, which is retroactive to June 1, 2012 and runs until May 31, 2017, requires testing for candidates for deputy fire chief, along with lieutenants, and battalion chiefs. The person hired must come from the rank below in the Tri-State district.

According to the agreement approved in December, firefighters received annual raises of 2.75 percent from June 2012 through May 31, 2016. In the final year of the contract, from June 2016 through May 2017, salaries will increase by 2 percent.

For the first seven years of their career, firefighters receive raises based on grades, in addition to annual salary increases. For example, the salary of a beginning firefighter hired this year would be $53,824, according to the contract. After successfully completing one year, the salary would rise to $59,433, plus the 2 percent increase in the contract for next year, which would raise the annual salary for a second year firefighter to $60,621 next year.

Bulat attributes the resolution of the contract and the grievances to the change in leadership. “It was a huge change when we changed administration.”

All three members of the board are new, replacing trustees who resigned or lost their bid for re-election in 2015.

And in November, Jack Mancione retired as fire chief with 18 months left on his contract. Brenn was named acting fire chief, until someone is hired for the post permanently. “Ending all the labor disputes was good for morale,” Brenn said. It saves legal fees, too.

The district’s finances also will be enhanced by the addition of Willow Springs. Tri-State’s three-year contract with Willow Springs to provide fire protection to the village for $575,000 a year, was set to expire in October. The district was not interested in renewing that contract. In March, Willow Springs voters approved a referendum to join the Tri-State Fire Protection District and pay property taxes to the district. Tri-State officials estimate the district will receive between $1.1 million and $1.2 million in yearly property tax revenue from Willow Springs.


With the addition of two engines, the district is improving its firefighting capability. They bought one and leased the other. The engines were demonstrators, which allowed Tri-State to get them for a lower price and with less advance notice than if they had to be built from scratch. One went into service Monday, the other is expected to be ready the week of April 25.

The units replaced a 16-year-old engine and two mini-squads. The new engines carry four times as much hose as the mini-squads and more than twice as much water. They also have greater pumping capacity.

thanks Dan