Posts Tagged Highwood may add contract personnel

Highwood may supplement manning with contract personnel (more)

Excerpts from the

The City of Highwood has taken a first step toward privatizing its fire department.

City Council members voted 4-2 on June 2 to contract with Paramedic Services of Illinois to supply the department with two firefighter/paramedics per shift, or one-half of the staffing on duty at all times. The City of Highwood will pay Paramedic Services of Illinois about $411,000 the first year to provide six firefighter/paramedics exclusively to the City of Highwood to cover three shifts per day, seven days a week.

Highwood’s four full-time firefighter/paramedics and a pool of part-time personnel will fill out the schedule to ensure that four people are on duty throughout each 24-hour day.

The city recently laid off three full-time, first-year firefighters/paramedics shortly before their probationary period expired.

Highwood Ald. Eric Falberg, who supported the PSI proposal, noted that Highwood’s heavy reliance on part-time people to supplement its full-time force has been difficult to manage in the past, and the city has lacked the flexibility to hold over part-timers into the next shift.

But Ald. Mike Fiore felt strongly that Highwood taxpayers would willingly take on a tax increase in order to hire more full-time personnel. “In my opinion, these (contract) guys are all inexperienced,” Fiore said. “They just came out of the academy and can’t find a gig.”

Also opposed to the move was Ald. Andy Peterson, who felt the city should be looking instead to sharing services with neighboring municipalities. “I am not convinced that supplementing our full-time staff with contract employees — no matter how reputable the firm — is going to maintain or improve the current quality of service,” said Peterson, who agreed the current cost structure of providing services is not sustainable.

Speaking to concerns about contract employee turnover, Mike Hansen, vice president of Paramedic Services of Illinois, acknowledged that employees often leave to work in a municipal fire department for higher pay and pension benefits. Hansen also serves as fire chief for the Village of Lincolnwood, which relies exclusively on Paramedic Services of Illinois to staff its department.

“I am not here to necessarily convince you to (use our service),” said Hansen, acknowledging the advantages and disadvantages. “All I can tell you is our residents appreciate our service.” He added they are particularly appreciative two times a year when their property tax bills come out. “We save our community’s taxpayers about $1.3 million a year in pension liability costs,” he said.

Previous posts are HERE, HERE, and HERE.

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Highwood may supplement manning with contract personnel (more)

Excerpts from an editorial in

As the City of Highwood, Illinois investigates the opportunity to supplement their fire department with personnel from a private firefighting firm, they want to assure the community that safety and protection will not be compromised.

City Manager Scott Coren cites revenue and a small tax base less than a square mile in size to draw from as the biggest factors in asking private firms for proposals, stating, “Highwood must continue to keep down the cost of our current services in order to have enough money to improve upon city infrastructure such as streets and sidewalk repairs.” Mayor Charles Pecaro added, “With the uncertain financial situation in the State of Illinois, we need to operate a sustainable city, keeping in mind the high costs of pensions and workers compensation.”

The contracting of fire department personnel joins other services such as snow plowing, maintaining the grass on many streets and public parks, building reviews and inspections, payroll, financial planning, fueling services, police dispatching and more, that are filled by contractors.

“Outsourcing city-wide needs has proven highly effective in the past. We now look at the potential to deliver our fire services safely and efficiently through contractors,” says Coren. “We will control the requirements for hiring and ensure all contractual employees have the proper certifications.”

With the money saved, Highwood can begin to address immediate infrastructure needs such as the fixing of city roads and sidewalks. “We’ve already had to increase taxes to address these issues in the past,” says Coren. “Not making changes like the one we are faced with now will only result in additional tax increases. We must be efficient with our limited tax dollars.”

thanks Chris

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Highwood may supplement manning with contract personnel (more)

As a followup to the recent post where we noted that Highwood may supplement manning with contract personnel, a web site apparently created by the Highwood firefighters was brought to our attention with the following information as the first blog post:

On April 5, 2015, the Highwood Fire Department received a letter from the Highwood City Council informing us that they were considering replacing the city’s full-time, union firefighters with contractors. They informed us in both the letter and at a Council Planning Meeting on April 8 that they would decide on the future of the Highwood Fire Department by May 8, 2015.

In order to make sure that there is no confusion in the community as to what’s actually happening. we’ve set up this site to explain to the residents we’ve proudly served for more than 100 years why Highwood needs a full-time, professional fire department dedicated to serving this unique community.

Through a series of posts over the next few weeks, we will detail the unique skills and firefighting experience that we bring as full-time Highwood firefighters.

We look forward to hearing from you.

If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to call us at 847-432-7622, or stop by the firehouse at 428 Green Bay Road, Highwood, IL. We are here 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and would be happy to answer any questions you have about what will definitely be a life-altering decision for us, as well as the residents of Highwood.

If you support us, we’d appreciate you sharing our facts and our story with other members of the community, as well as your friends on Facebook, Twitter, etc..

We have been proud to serve Highwood, and we look forward to continuing to serve you for years to come.


The men and women of the Highwood Fire Department

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Highwood may supplement manning with contract personnel

Excerpts from the

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

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