Posts Tagged Mattoon Fire Department

Mattoon Fire Department news

Excerpts from jg-tc.com:

Some of the 12 candidates for Mattoon City Council in the April 6 election differ sharply on whether the city should revive the Mattoon Fire Department’s ambulance service or leave it inactive.

In between those two opposing points, candidates suggested having a third party analyze ambulance service date and have the department’s trained paramedics respond to more emergency medical calls with Mitchell-Jerdan Ambulance Service. The candidates said the city should place a priority on meeting its fire, police, and other public safety responsibilities.

Candidate viewpoints:

the city needs maximum police staffing for public and officer safety. On firefighter staffing, the city is at an impasse in negotiating a new contract with their union and is in related appellate litigation.  The city is not in a position to bring back the ambulance service due to budget constraints and to parameters for private ambulance coverage.

the city has been trying to get staffing equitability across the fire, police, and public works departments, which all play public safety roles. If firefighter staffing stays too large for a town of 18,000, the other departments will get less resources and negotiations with the union have been unsuccessful, so the city is pursuing arbitration and litigation on behalf of all residents.

the city has gone three years now without its ambulance service and probably will not reinstate it and that a reinstated ambulance service would not cover its operating expenses. Without an ambulance service, the city needs to reduce firefighter staffing as part of efforts to curb rising personnel costs and that the city, has a monster pension problem.

as society has changed, crime and demand for police protection has grown. The city needs to maintain the proper number of officers to protect citizens. Public safety also includes fire and public works, so the city must seek staffing balance. The city cannot afford to be in the ambulance business when there are private companies providing this service.

the city should not reinstate the Mattoon Fire Department’s ambulance service at this time but should instead continue to encourage the development of the ambulance services in the private sector.

the city should hire more patrol officers and detectives, plus drug task force personnel to respond to the substance abuse increase. The city also should finalize a firefighter contract to provide stability and a more accurate look at public safety levels. The new council and the union may find common ground on staffing between the current 22 and the contract required 30.

the city will have to wait until related litigation concludes before it addresses any future for a city ambulance service. If that service is reinstated, the city should utilize federal funds that provide reimbursement for caring for patients who receive financial aid. In the meantime, the city should still utilize firefighters’ paramedic training.

the city needs a public safety strategic plan to prepare for annexations, economic development and more and could build a grant funded, energy efficient fire station east of downtown to replace the dilapidated city hall station and serve Mattoon’s eastward spread. The city also should use street corner cameras to deter crime and provide evidence when needed.

the city can not further cut fire, police, and public works staffing while also maintaining the current public safety level. To achieve a balanced budget, the city needs to drive economic growth and cut wasteful spending from the top down. The city is overlooking the ambulance service’s potential financial benefits.

the city needs to work with both the fire and police departments to dissolve the friction between those two organizations.  “We are one city, one government, we need to work together.” That would help enhance public safety.

 
the city should ensure all its public safety departments are adequately staffed and have what they need to do their jobs. The current council did not fulfill its duty to provide for public safety when it eliminated the ambulance service, and that choice has cost the city a lot of money.

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Mattoon Fire Department news

Excerpts from wandtv.com:

Former Mattoon Fire Department Chief Oren Lockhart passed away on February 28, 2021. He began serving Mattoon in 1973 and moved up in ranks of driver, captain, chief, and director of fire safety before retiring in 2002. 

He helped developed the original Coles County Dive Team. On the Mattoon Firefighters #691 Facebook they said, Lockhart’s legacy has been carried on and will continue to do so. 

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Mattoon Fire Department news

Excerpts from icbcradio.com:

During a meeting Tuesday night, the Mattoon City Council voted unanimously without additional discussion to approve a memorandum of understanding with Mattoon Firefighters Local 691 to reduce the minimum certification requirement for newly hired firefighters from EMT-paramedic to EMT-basic.

The union has called for the city to bring staffing back up to 30 firefighters as required by the current contract, which was set to expire in 2018 but is still in place until a new contract is reached. The Mattoon Fire Department currently has approximately 22 firefighters on staff. City officials have said that they are having trouble finding candidates who have paramedic certification.

Under the memorandum, there are provisions for new hires to obtain paramedic certification while they are working in the fire department. The temporary reduction in EMT requirements will expire when the city and union execute a new contract.

The two parties are also going through an Illinois Labor Relations Board hearing process, in which the city is appealing a recent ruling that the Mattoon Fire Department’s ambulance service should be reinstated. The city shuttered its service on July 25, 2018 as a cost-cutting measure and now relies solely on a private provider.

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Mattoon Fire Department news (more)

Excerpts from the jg-tc.com:

The City pf Mattoon will likely appeal a state panel’s ruling that the Mattoon Fire Department’s ambulance service should be reinstated. The three ambulances have been in storage since the city shuttered its emergency medical service on July 25, 2018, but officials have said that new equipment would be needed before the service could resume.

An Illinois Labor Relations Board State Panel ruled on Aug. 18 that the service should be restored because the city violated firefighters’ collective bargaining agreement by the way it was eliminated.

The city administrator said the ruling hinges on differing interpretations of the Illinois Substitutes Act’s scope and that the city maintains that it did not substitute unqualified contractors for firefighter-paramedics, but instead exercised its right to eliminate the municipal ambulance service and rely instead on the certified paramedics in existing private service in Mattoon.
 
The case stems from the city council adopting a resolution on July 18, 2017 to eliminate the ambulance service as a cost cutting measure. City officials reported then that this service was too costly and was duplicating the work of private providers. Mattoon Firefighters Association Local 691, which subsequently filed grievances, has maintained that the service provided essential community care and city revenue.

Following rulings in favor of the city and the union on various points, the ambulance dispute reached a new stage with the state panel’s recent ruling.

“The city implemented the change in the firefighters’ working conditions under the parties’ current agreement without bargaining to impasse or submitting the matter to interest arbitration,” the panel wrote. “Because the parties’ collective bargaining agreement requires the parties to provide ambulance services, the cessation of city-operated ambulance services and the resultant transfer of firefighters’ work responding to emergency medical calls changed the existing conditions of employment.”

Firefighters union President Bart Owen said the appeals process can take up to a year. He noted that the union’s civil contempt filing from last year in Coles County Circuit Court is still pending. This filing calls for the city to be held in contempt for not bringing contracted staffing levels back up to 30 firefighters as called for by a Dec. 9, 2019 court ruling.

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Mattoon Fire Department news

Excerpts from jg-tc.com:

The Illinois Labor Relations Board has ruled in favor of the Mattoon Fire Department over a dispute about privatizing ambulance service. In a 21-page ruling, the board says the ambulance service should return as it operated in 2018.

The fire department operated an advanced life support ambulance service from 2010 to 2018 and the Mattoon City Council voted to eliminate it as a cost savings measure. The Mattoon Firefighters Association, Local 691 ?filed a grievance, saying the adoption of the resolution violated its collective bargaining agreement.

The city can appeal the ruling. Read the full ruling here.

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Mattoon Fire Department news

Excerpts from jc-tg.com:

The City of Mattoon’s insurance rating for fire protection service recently improved, a change that could yield lower insurance premiums for some property owners. Fire Chief Jeff Hilligoss said the Insurance Services Office (ISO) issues these ratings for how well protected communities are by their fire departments. Insurance companies then use that score to help set property insurance rates, although the impact on homeowner insurance policies varies by insurer.

An ISO fire insurance rating is scored on a range of 1-10, with lower numbers meaning better ratings. There are four main criteria for for score: 50 percent from the quality of the fire department, 40 percent from the availability of water supply, 10 percent from the quality of the local 911 system, and an extra 5.5 percent from fire prevention programs. Only 0.71 percent of all communities surveyed have a rating of 1, and a rating of 5 is both the median and most common rating. The Mattoon Fire Department previously had a rating of 4/4, and  Mattoon improved to 3/3 through changes in documentation, additional training, inspection services, and water distribution system improvements.

The Mattoon Fire Department will work to lower this score again in a couple of years.

Excerpts from jc-tg.com:

The Mattoon City Council voted on June 16 to appoint Jeff Hilligoss to the chief’s post after conducting a candidate search process with the Illinois Fire Chiefs Association. 

In 1995, Hilligoss began pursuing his career in firefighting when he became a volunteer with the Lincoln Fire Protection District. He served there as a volunteer firefighter for 25 years and was eventually named chief of this district’s Old State Road station in rural Mattoon, a position he held until recently.

After gaining experience as a volunteer firefighter, he was hired by the Mattoon Fire Department 19 years ago and worked his way up the ranks to engineer and then captain, and also became a training supervisor. Hilligoss has years of experience with the day to day operations of the department and cooperating with other area emergency response agencies. He said that experience will help him as he takes on the administrative responsibilities with Mattoon. Hilligoss intends to develop long term plans for vehicle and equipment purchases, and continuing to improve the city’s Insurance Services Office rating for fire protection capabilities.

The Mattoon Fire Department’s previous permanent chief retired in February 2019. The department subsequently had two interim chiefs; first Kris Phipps and then Kevin Schott.

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Mattoon Fire Department news

Excerpts from jg-tc.com:

The city recently paid a total of $79,000 in compensatory damages to 32 current and retired firefighters in a Mattoon Fire Department staffing level case that began on Feb. 22, 2018, when the city and Mattoon Firefighters Association Local 691 were in arbitration on union claims that the city failed to maintain minimum staffing of 30 firefighters as required by contract.

Arbitrator Gill Vernon found on April 9, 2018, that the city had violated this requirement and ordered the city to bring staffing up to 30, from the low 20s. He also ordered the two parties to reach an agreement on a monetary penalty. The city and the union were unable to reach an agreement, and this dispute ultimately led to a hearing before Circuit Judge Matthew Sullivan on Dec. 3, 2019.

Sullivan granted the union’s motion for summary judgment and the arbitration award that Vernon had issued on June 17, 2019. This remedy included $79,000 in damages for distribution among all current and former firefighters who served at the time in question. The city also was ordered to pay $19,059 in attorney fees for the union, $9,225 in reimbursement for lost union dues, and $3,900 in arbitrator fees. The Mattoon City Council voted on Jan. 7 to pay the compensatory damages, which will be covered by the city’s insurance fund. 

Meanwhile, the Mattoon firefighters union awaits the scheduling of an Illinois Labor Relations Board hearing, the outcome of which could affect the upcoming arbitration session for a new collective bargaining agreement with the city. They have been operating under the previous contract, which expired on April 30, 2018.

The arbitration session will not be held until after the Illinois Labor Relations Board hears an appeal from the union about the board’s 2018 dismissal of an unfair labor practice against the city. The charge had alleged that the city engaged in unfair labor practices when it eliminated the Mattoon Fire Department’s ambulance service without providing notice to or bargaining with the union.

Arbitrator George Fitzsimmons ruled on April 18, 2018, in favor of the city’s plans to eliminate the Mattoon Fire Department’s ambulance service on July 25, 2018, as part of efforts to deal with city budget deficits. Mitchell-Jerdan Ambulance Service, a longtime provider in Mattoon, was part of the ambulance call rotation with the fire department’s service and is now the sole provider in town.

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Mattoon Fire Department news

Excerpts from jg-tc.com:

The city council voted Tuesday night to hire Litchfield’s former fire chief, Kevin Schott, as the Mattoon Fire Department’s interim chief. Schott has extensive experience as a city chief and as a firefighter with the Illinois Air National Guard. After retiring from the Guard, Schott served as chief operating officer for the Illinois State Fire Marshall’s Office.

Schott’s interim chief contract will be effective Jan. 13-July 12. The city will begin searching for a permanent chief with the Illinois Fire Chiefs Association’s help.

The previous interim chief, Kris Phipps, resigned in October about eight months into his 12 month contract due to disagreements with other officials regarding the department’s operations. The previous chief, Tony Nichols, retired early in February.

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Mattoon Fire Department news (more)

Excerpts from wandtv.com:

In less than a year, Mattoon has gone from three ambulance services to one. Now, the city council is placing a moratorium on a new service trying to come to town for up to the next six months.

The city pulled the fire department out of ambulance business in July 2018, citing budget issues. Last week, Dunn’s Ambulance Service announced it was leaving the city due to staffing issues. Mitchell-Jerdan is now the only ambulance provider left.

The local firefighters union is still trying to get the city to reconsider the ambulance service as they also negotiate a new labor contract. Union president Bart Owen says Mitchell-Jerdan has had issues fulfilling the need on its own in the past.

“It hate to say ‘wait and see’ again, but we’ll have to watch this,” Owen said. “We are not staffing [our ambulances]. They are in storage…they are technically still an option here. But we’re being told they’re not an option at this time.”

But the mayor and city council have remained firm: the city-run ambulance service was cost this city money and wasn’t viable long term.

“Do you want us to cut police officers?” asked city commissioner Preston Owen. “Do you want us to cut ambulance services duplicated? Do you want us to stop filling potholes? That’s the choice.”

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Mattoon Fire Department news (more)

Excerpts from jg-tc.com:

Taylorville-based Dunn’s Ambulance has given notice that it plans to close its Mattoon operation sometime on or before May 31, which would leave Mattoon based Mitchell-Jerdan Ambulance Service as the sole provider of ambulance services in Mattoon. Dunn’s has been operating in Mattoon since 2008 and has an ambulance station at 1821 Marshall Ave.

The city ended the Mattoon Fire Department’s ambulance service on July 25, but the department has retained advanced life support equipment on its fire trucks to provide backup service as needed. The fire department operated an advanced life support ambulance service from 2010 to 2018. City officials have said that the department’s ambulance service lost money and duplicated the work of private providers. Firefighters countered that their service generated needed city revenue and provided essential coverage for Mattoon.

Mitchell-Jerdan has increased its ambulance and staffing levels since the fire department’s ambulance service ended and it has provided backup for Dunn’s as needed. There have been a few instances in recent months of Charleston Fire Department ambulances needing to be dispatched to Mattoon for backup.

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