Posts Tagged fire district and village may split in Barrington

Barrington village to determine future staffing

The Daily Herald has an article about the pending status of the relationship between the Village of Barrington Fire Department staffing.

Monday should end more than a month of suspense for two Barrington firefighter-paramedics over their future employment with the village.

They are the ones caught between two possible courses of action by the village board that night — to lay off 20 or 22 firefighters on Jan. 1.

The layoffs will take place in conjunction with the end of the village’s contract to provide service to the larger, 48-square-mile Barrington Countryside Fire Protection District which serves communities surrounding Barrington itself.

In mid-July, village trustees heard two recommendations from consultant Bill Balling on the Barrington Fire Department’s future needs. His preference is a plan that would employ 18 personnel — laying off 20 — but would increase the village’s fire protection costs by about $80,000 per year.

But he also identified a workable plan to employ 16 people — laying off 22 — which would result in a slight decrease from today’s costs.

The layoffs will be based on seniority — as per the firefighters’ union contract — which allows 20 of them to already know they have to seek new jobs next year. The other two understandably remain on edge.

The fire district is hoping to hire as many of the laid off firefighters as it can through its new contract with private firm Paramedic Services of Illinois. But such employment would be without a pension plan and possibly at a much lower salary.

Find the complete article HERE.

Previous posts can be found beginning HERE and HERE..

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Barrington & Countryside FPD update

The Barrington Courier Review has an article about the split between the Village of Barrington and the Barrington & Countryside FPD.

Barrington, fire district to proceed separately

BARRINGTON — A consultant’s report presented Monday night to the Barrington Village Board revealed that 20 firefighters and paramedics could be laid off when the village and the Barrington Countryside Fire Protection District begin operating as separate entities on Jan. 1, 2014.

During a separate meeting Monday night, the Fire Protection District announced former New Lenox fire chief Jeff Swanson as its interim administrator.

Speaking at the Village Board meeting, William Balling, from WRB Consultants, outlined two options for the Barrington department. The first option recommended a total staffing of 16 sworn personnel, including 14 operations and two administrative positions. That staffing plan would result in 22 layoffs. The second option recommended a total staffing of 18 personnel, including 16 in operations and two administrative positions.

In either case, the staffing change would be a considerable decrease from the 39 sworn personnel under the expiring intergovernmental agreement with the Fire Protection District.

“We need to retool and redesign,” said Balling. “We think this is a logical progression.”

Balling recommended staffing the Barrington station with 18 personnel, which would cost about $80,000 more per year than the 16 staff model.

The board is expected to make a decision at its next meeting, scheduled for Aug. 19.

In explaining the downsizing, village leaders cited the much smaller geographic area — about five square miles — that village firefighters will serve starting in 2014. Village Manager Jeff Lawler said Fire Station 1, located in Barrington, receives about five to six calls a day, most of which are emergency medical calls.

As part of the reorganization, the village intends to reduce the number of personnel on ambulances and other apparatus from three to two.

Lawler said this will provide Station 1 with greater flexibility.

“What it’s doing is it’s aligning the assets and personnel at Station 1 with the most common calls, which are EMS calls,” he said.

During his presentation, Balling said many neighboring cities including Arlington Heights and Palatine have adopted a two-person ambulance model.

“Two-person ambulances are not a new phenomenon,” he said, adding that there could be flexibility on that number if needed.

Last month, the district proposed that the village lease 18 Barrington firefighters to the district for a two-year period. During that time, the district would consider a tax levy referendum to fund pensions and health care costs for the firefighters.

Village President Karen Darch cited legacy costs, including pensions and disability liabilities that could cost taxpayers millions, as a reason not to lease the 18 firefighters.

On Monday night, Darch outlined the department’s budget, including current operations, infrastructure, employee pensions and Tax Increment Financing (TIF) funds. Her goal was to explain that every dollar that goes into pension funds is a dollar that cannot support those other service areas.

“We have a responsibility to spend the revenue that comes into this village wisely,” Darch said.

But many residents in the board room audience expressed concern that the level and quality of emergency services will suffer after the separation.

“Without a doubt, putting money before safety is a horrible choice,” said Barrington resident Carrie Raia, expressing concern about longer response times.

Residents also expressed concern about first responders getting caught behind trains that run through town. Darch, however, said Barrington has a cooperative relationship with Lake Zurich Rural Fire Protection District, which supports Barrington operations when needed.

But residents remained undeterred in criticizing the board for the proposed reductions in personnel.

“This is a catastrophe now and I don’t know if we can stop it or not,” said Barrington resident Char McLear, who served as assistant to the Barrington fire chief before retiring.

Balling explained that his report was based on incident coverage, station availability and location, operational staffing, apparatus and mobile equipment, infrastructure, and automatic and mutual aid agreements and special response times.

“There are a lot of moving parts,” he said.

Also on Monday night, the Fire Protection District’s board approved a new contract with the private firm Paramedic Services of Illinois to provide emergency personnel in 2014.

The district board also discussed the possibility of levying a new tax to fund pensions applied to career firefighters furloughed from the village. The levy could appear on the March 2014 primary ballot at the earliest.

“The district has to put that question to the voters,” said Robert Buhs, a consultant and executive director of the Illinois Fire Chiefs Association.

Our last post can be viewed HERE.

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Barrington & Countryside FPD update

The Daily Herald has another article on the discussions between the Village of Barrington and the Barrington & Countryside FPD.

Barrington officials have gone beyond their original request that the Barrington Countryside Fire Protection District hire the village’s laid-off firefighters later this year — suggesting the district offer them substantial signing bonuses as well.

The suggestion was made in a June 27 letter from Barrington Village President Karen Darch to fire district President Tom Rowan.

The letter also urges the district’s approval of an automatic-aid agreement that would have both agencies respond to calls closer to their respective stations.

Rowan said his board hasn’t yet had the opportunity to digest the letter but would respond to the village has soon as it has. The fire district board is meeting Monday to discuss candidates for the position of interim administrator.

Though Darch’s letter anticipates a meeting between her and Rowan during the week of July 8, it argues that the district’s request to lease 18 of the village’s firefighters for two years creates a risky financial liability for the village if any of the employees filed for disability during that period.

Rowan has said the district wants to both save the jobs and retain the expertise of the firefighters the village would lay off when the two agencies’ contractual agreement ends on Jan. 1.

These experienced firefighters, familiar with the area, would work alongside others hired from a private firm to bring the district’s total number up to approximately 33.

But the district cannot immediately offer such benefits as pension contributions to the laid-off firefighters already earning them, Rowan said. The proposal to lease the firefighters for two years was seen as a way of buying time while another arrangement is found, perhaps a tax-hike referendum to fund such benefits.

The village has never specified exactly how many firefighters it would need to lay off, but fire district officials have said their intention is to see that none lose their jobs.

Barrington trustees will hear a report from a consultant on July 15 recommending a restructuring of their fire department in 2014.

The fire district covers a 48-square-mile area outside the village that includes portions of Barrington Hills, Lake Barrington, South Barrington and Inverness and unincorporated Cook, Lake and McHenry counties.

The district has always received its fire protection and paramedic services by contract from Barrington but began taking steps to end that contract after village officials denied requests for additional firefighters and equipment.

The complete article is HERE.

Our most recent post is HERE.

thanks Chris

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Barrington Countryside FPD update

More from the Daily Herald on the discussions between the Village of Barrington and the Barrington & Countryside FPD:

Barrington officials Friday said they didn’t believe a proposal from the Barrington Countryside Fire Protection District to lease 18 firefighters for two years really addressed the village’s concerns over the long-term pension and disability costs for these employees.

Such an arrangement would keep these firefighters village employees and such costs a village responsibility, Village President Karen Darch said.

“They don’t really define what they mean by ‘lease,'” she said of the district’s proposal.

The offer has added another step to what had seemed the intended end of the village and fire district’s long-standing contractual relationship on Jan. 1.

The district covers a 48-square-mile area outside of Barrington, but has always contracted its fire protection and paramedic services from the village’s fire department.

The district’s expansion plans — which include hiring seven more firefighters and planning for yet a further station — have brought what could be seen as a natural end to the cost-effective relationship the two agencies once had, Barrington Village Manager Jeff Lawler said.

The village provides twice as many employees to the district as the village’s own jurisdiction requires. Though the district pays its share of these employees’ costs, it is the village that remains on the hook for pension and disability payments whenever the district ends the contract.

Darch said village taxpayers shouldn’t be responsible for more than the costs of the employees the village needs.

Even under the two-year lease arrangement the district is proposing, there’s a potential risk of $160 million to the village if all 18 firefighters became catastrophically injured, Darch said.

This is based on a combination of their ages and future earning potentials. A catastrophic injury to a 26-year-old firefighter could cost the village $11.5 million in disability payments, she said.

District board President Tom Rowan said further discussion was intended all along. He added that the proposal was necessarily sketchy as many details would need to be worked out mutually.

The firefighters union is supporting the district’s proposal, even if it requires further discussion, union President Eric Brouilette said.

The district opened bids from five private firefighter-paramedic firms this week, offering a first year of service for amounts ranging from $2.6 million to $3.9 million.

But these prices are based on the firms’ costs and don’t take into consideration the higher experience levels the district would like to retain from the firefighters it currently receives from the village.

This week’s proposal seeks to combine 18 of them — who would otherwise be laid off by the village — with firefighters provided by the private firms.

“We spent a lot of money on training,” Rowan said of the Barrington firefighters. “We know how good they are. And they know the area.”

But district trustees are considering a tax-hike referendum to provide such pensions, which could appear on ballots as early as March 2014.

The district’s jurisdiction includes parts of Barrington Hills, Lake Barrington, South Barrington, Inverness and unincorporated Cook, Lake and McHenry counties.

Barrington, meanwhile, has hired a consultant to recommend a new structure for its fire department after the anticipated expiration of its contract with the district.

The entire article is HERE.

thanks Chris

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Barrington Countryside FPD update

More information on the discussions between the Village of Barrington and the Barrington & Countryside FPD from the Daily Herald:

The Barrington Countryside Fire Protection District is proposing a new model for continued cooperation with the Barrington Fire Department, rather than breaking off their contractual relationship completely at the end of the year.

Under the proposal, the fire district would lease 18 firefighters from the village of Barrington for two years.

These firefighters — roughly half the amount the district wishes to employ — would work for the district’s new chief and alongside other firefighters contracted from a private firm.

The benefit to the district, according to board President Tom Rowan, is that the experience and expertise of today’s workforce would not be lost.

“One of the appeals is we’d already know we have staff we’re familiar with and who know the area.”

The appeal to the village, he hopes, is that this agreement would have the district pay the full costs of these employees — salaries, insurance and pension benefits.

Barrington Village President Karen Darch recently said that one of the financial pressures the village is feeling from the current contract with the district is that Barrington must pay the long-term pension and disability costs for a workforce much larger than it needs itself.

The district covers a 48-square-mile area just outside Barrington which includes portions of Barrington Hills, South Barrington, Lake Barrington, Inverness and unincorporated Cook, Lake and McHenry counties.

Though a separate tax body, the district has always provided fire and paramedic services to its constituents by contracting for staff from Barrington.

Because the district wants to increase its staffing levels but the village doesn’t, plans have been in progress to end their contractual relationship on Jan. 1. The district’s separation plans have gone as far as opening bids for service from five private firefighter-paramedic firms.

The entire article can be found HERE.

Another article pertaining to the dispute from the Daily Herald:

The Barrington Countryside Fire Protection District Monday took another major step in its journey to independence by opening bids from private firefighter-paramedic firms to replace its contract for service from the Barrington Fire Department in 2014.

But district trustees took no action to approve any of the five Chicago-area firms that applied for the job, and said it was too early to know how their annual costs might be affected by such a change.

Each firm bid on annual costs over three years. Bids for the first year ranged from $2.6 million to $3.9 million.

Each bid was for personnel alone. The district already has stations in Barrington Hills and Lake Barrington, and expects to divide the vehicles it co-owns with the village of Barrington between the two taxing bodies later this year.

The district’s consultant, Illinois Fire Chiefs Association Executive Director Robert Buhs, said the district is closely adhering to the timeline for the transition which was laid out in January. A list of 127 tasks is being systematically checked off, including hiring an interim administrator in July.

Buhs said he was recently contacted by Barrington about the possibility of signing an automatic-aid agreement in which both agencies would respond to each other’s calls based on proximity.

District trustees appeared both bemused and amused by this as they considered their communication with the village to be lacking.

“It appears (Barrington officials are) doing the agreement and then giving it to us to sign, which seems very unrealistic,” district Trustee Tom Long said.

Fellow Trustee Paul Heinze suggested it could be made No. 128 on the district’s priority list.

This complete article can be found HERE.

thanks Chris

We have had multiple post on this topic which can be traced back through the most recent article.


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Barrington Countryside FPD update

The Daily Herald has an article about a village board meeting in Barrington where the issue of the fire department split with the fire district was on the agenda.

Barrington’s village board Monday night was deluged by a standing-room-only crowd of firefighters and residents angered by the planned split of the village fire department and Barrington Countryside Fire Protection District at the end of the year.

Many in the crowd held yellow signs with slogans like “We Support One Barrington Fire Department” and “Public Safety Should Be Public Knowledge.”

Both the village and fire district have been making plans to end their long-running contractual relationship, under which the larger area of the district has received service from an expanded Barrington Fire Department. Trustees of the fire district, which serves a 48-square-mile area, have cited frustration with their efforts to ask the village for seven more firefighters to be paid for entirely by the district.

But Village President Karen Darch sought to explain Monday that the village is struggling with the long-term costs of a fire department staff far larger than the village itself needs.

These long-term costs are not just the salaries the district has offered to pay for more employees, but also the pensions, insurance and disability payments due these firefighters and their spouses long after they’ve stopped working.

Even though the village has been paying ever higher contributions to the firefighters’ pension fund each year, the fund has dropped from being fully funded in 2007 to only 78.9 percent funded in 2012, Darch said.

Barrington Trustee Tim Roberts said he sympathized with firefighters who could lose union benefits if transferred to the fire district, but he didn’t believe the changes would hurt public safety.

The complete article is HERE.

We have covered the controversy in a series of posts, the most recent of which is HERE.


thanks Chris

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Barrington village and fire district discuss splitting

The Barrington Countryside Fire Protection District and the Village of Barrington have been discussing whether or not to continue their relationship or split. Previous posts on this topic can be found HEREHERE, and HERE.

The Daily Herald has an article on the topic.

If there’s a point of no return in the Barrington Countryside Fire Protection District’s threatened end-of-year split from the Barrington Fire Department, both sides seem to have widely different opinions of when it is.

Fire district officials, who currently contract for services from the geographically smaller village of Barrington, are making plans to hire their own temporary administrator next month as well as to buy an approximately $400,000 water tanker — a request the village has consistently declined.

Barrington Village President Karen Darch said Monday she believes the close relationship the two taxing bodies have had will continue in some form.

“I still think we will have a contractual relationship,” Darch said. “As I said before, we’re still trying to work out the correct structure of that relationship.”

But fire district trustees said Monday they’ll be taking significant steps in the next few weeks toward becoming an independent fire department.

The district serves an area that includes parts of Barrington Hills, Lake Barrington, Inverness and South Barrington.

On April 29, district trustees will meet with candidates recommended by the Illinois Fire Chiefs Association for the job of temporary administrator. At the district’s regular meeting in May, the board expects to hear a more specific cost for the 3,000-gallon tanker truck it wants custom built.

The difference of opinion over the need for an extra tanker is one of many disagreements leading to the potential split on Jan. 1.

“We can’t buy equipment without their permission, and they won’t let us buy it,” district Trustee Paul Heinze said.

But Barrington Village Manager Jeff Lawler said that because the contract is considered in limbo at present, the village wouldn’t object to the tanker purchase as long as it has no financial obligation for it.

District trustees Monday also voted to repair 11 faulty traffic signal opticoms that were causing potential delays to emergency vehicles at red lights. The repairs will cost an estimated $70,000.

Thanks Tom

Other posts pertaining to the relationship between the village and the fire district can be found HERE, HERE, HERE, and HERE.

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Barrington village & FPD may split

The Daily Herald has an article detailing actions between the Village of Barrington and the Barrington & Countryside FPD.

An exchange of letters between the Barrington Countryside Fire Protection District and the village of Barrington has kicked off a 15-month period in which the two agencies must either negotiate a new intergovernmental agreement or go their separate ways.

The mutual letters of intent to terminate the current long-running contract between the two governments stemmed from fire district officials’ insistence that they need more control over staffing levels and the purchase of new equipment.

Fire district officials said whenever they ask to increase these — even at the district’s own expense — the village says no.

“There’s no flexibility. There’s no cooperation,” said fire district President Tom Rowan. “We just don’t feel we can continue to spend the money we’re spending with the village and get no cooperation.”

While the Barrington Fire Department serves the village itself, the fire district serves a larger area surrounding the village. This area includes portions of Barrington Hills, Inverness, Lake Barrington, South Barrington and unincorporated Cook, Lake and McHenry counties.

Since the fire district was formed as a separate taxing body, its appointed officials have decided that the most cost-effective way to provide service is to contract with Barrington to supply its firefighters, paramedics and equipment.

But in recent times, whenever additional personnel or equipment is sought, the village refuses, Rowan said.

Barrington’s recent letter of response to the fire district from Village President Karen Darch reiterates the argument that there is no need for the additional water tanker the district wants.

And the letter points out that the village alone remains responsible for retired employees’ pensions, even if the district is willing to pay more for additional firefighters’ salaries.

Rowan said that while he isn’t an attorney, he felt there must be a way for the district to take long-term responsibility for the pensions of the employees it wants the village to hire.

The district is currently prepared for upcoming talks with the village to go in either direction, Rowan said. While there’s hope a new agreement can be reached, the district is also talking with surrounding fire departments about starting new mutual-aid agreements with the staff the district would be hiring itself if there’s a split.

Among the district’s own properties are fire stations next to Barrington Hills village hall and in Lake Barrington’s industrial park on Pepper Road.

The entire article can be found HERE.

A previous article can be found HERE.

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Barrington village & FPD may split

The Daily Herald has an article which looks into discussions about the relationship between the Barrington & Countryside Fire Protection District and the Village of Barrington.

 The long-standing relationship between the Barrington Countryside Fire Protection District and the village of Barrington is on the fritz, and officials are discussing the possibility of parting ways.

At a joint special meeting of the boards Monday, representatives from both sides used the often heated session to air multiple grievances.

For Barrington Countryside, which contracts its service from the village to serve an area more than 40 square miles around Barrington, frustrations stem from wanting more contractual flexibility to, on their own dime, hire more personnel and buy more equipment.

“Right now, we’re hamstrung,” Barrington Countryside President Tom Rowan said. “We can’t do that.”

The prime example fire district officials point to is their desire to purchase a tender, or a tanker that can haul and shoot water from a cannon. Rowan said Barrington Countryside’s current tender is unfit for use and being retired. Given the district’s absence of fire hydrants, the board wants the go-ahead to buy a replacement.

Village officials, however, say they already authorized the purchase of a smaller tender three years ago and that a bigger piece of equipment isn’t necessary given the district’s lack of fires and numerous mutual-aid agreements with neighboring departments.

Everyone agreed the next step should be for the fire district to draft a letter outlining its requests and reasoning behind them. The current intergovernmental agreement doesn’t expire until the end of 2013, though fire district officials want changes sooner.

If their demands aren’t met, both sides seemed prepared to end the relationship. For Barrington Countryside, that would mean starting its own department or finding another vendor.

“We want to run a department the way we feel it should be run: efficiently and thinking of the taxpayers,” village Trustee Robert Windon said. “If you guys don’t like that, that is perfectly fine. Let us know and at the end of this contract, we’ll all go our separate ways.”

The entire article can be found HERE.

Previous articles which highlight issues between the two governing bodies can be found HERE, HERE, HERE, and HERE.

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