Excerpts from the ChicagoTribune.com:

In an historic move that could trigger a transformation in how small suburban municipalities deliver emergency services, Calumet Park has outsourced its fire department to a private contractor in an effort to cut costs. The board voted unanimously Nov. 8 to approve a separation agreement with its firefighters union and to enter into a five-year contract with Kurtz Ambulance Service to provide fire suppression and ambulance services to the village.

“It’s going to cause a chain reaction in the south suburbs with the communities that just can’t afford to pay the high salaries, the overtime and the equipment,” said the village’s attorney, noting that he was in discussions with three other south suburban communities about outsourcing their fire departments.

Kurtz will assume control of Calumet Park’s fire department on Dec. 1. As part of the arrangement, the company will supply 12 full-time firefighter/paramedics to staff Calumet Park’s department in four-person shifts, replacing the village’s 30-plus part-time firefighters. Four of the 12 will be current village firefighters who have signed on to work full-time for Kurtz.

Calumet Park will pay Kurtz $825,000 in the first year of the contract, with progressive increases each year up to a maximum of $925,000 in the final year of the five-year deal. That  does not include the salary of the fire chief, who will remain a village employee or costs for building and apparatus maintenance and utilities. The village, which appropriated nearly $1.5 million for the fire department budget in fiscal year 2019, hopes to save at least a half-million dollars per year by contracting with Kurtz.

The village’s separation agreement with the unionized firefighters — which will pay them $1,000 per year for every year they’ve worked for Calumet Park — will cut into that savings in the first year of the contract. Per the separation agreement, the union members will receive half of their severance on Nov. 30 and the other half in spring 2019, with a total village outlay of around $240,000.

Martin Rita, a 12-year member of the department who serves as union president, said the union had proposed various concessions but had been unable to reach an agreement to keep services in house. He said he was glad that four current Calumet Park firefighters would be sticking around to ease the transition for Kurtz, but that he still had concerns about the quality of service a private company could provide.

The mayor praised village firefighters and said he’d never questioned the quality of service they were providing, but insisted that privatizing the department was necessary given the village’s dire financial state. One factor in his decision to privatize fire services was the recent realization that 18 part-time firefighters were pension eligible, and that the village could be on the hook for years of past pension payments. That, in addition to growing workers’ compensation and health care benefits for the department’s part-time workers, convinced village officials it was necessary to make the move.

Calumet Park officials said they eventually intend to expand their private fire and paramedic services beyond village boundaries in hopes of generating revenue for the community’s coffers. If all goes as planned, Calumet Park expects to enter intergovernmental firefighting and EMS agreements with surrounding communities, much like the ones it already has to provide 911 dispatch services for a handful of neighbors through its emergency communications center — also operated by Kurtz.

Joe Richert, the secretary-treasurer for Service Employees International Union Local 73, which represented the Calumet Park firefighters union, said this was the first time he’d seen a private firm supplant a unionized department.

Pat Devaney, president of the Associated Fire Fighters of Illinois, which represents 224 affiliate departments and more than 15,000 professional firefighters across the state, said the threat of fire department privatization in Illinois is nothing new, but that outside of North Riverside — where privatization attempts were stymied by the courts — he was not aware of another example of a municipality making good on its threat to outsource services.

thanks Ron