Posts Tagged Woodstock Fire Chief Ralph Webster

Woodstock Fire Rescue District news

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The Woodstock Fire/Rescue District has hired Capt. Michael Hill, a 20-year WFRD veteran, to take over for Chief Ralph Webster when Webster retires Oct. 1. 

A lifelong resident of Woodstock and a graduate of Marian Central Catholic High School, Hill became a commissioned firefighter in 2003 as part of the first group of firefighters to be hired by WFRD as full-time employees. In 1993, he started as a part-time employee for the fire district before taking a hiatus to earn a master’s degree in computer science.  He attended the National Fire Academy and is completing the Executive Fire Officer Program, the highest certification offered to fire officers.

Hill said he would like WFRD to become more proactive toward fire prevention when he becomes chief. 

Internally, Hill said he will focus on fiscal responsibility and improving efficiency. The district is facing a loss of revenue expected to exceed $800,000, fueled mostly by the loss of a $750,000 contract to serve the Village of Lakewood. WFRD’s deputy chief position was eliminated in May.

Webster is leaving his post two years before the end of his contract, a move WFRD officials have said is a cost-saving measure. Webster said he will stay on with the district for five to seven months to help with the transition.

Hill will earn an annual salary of $125,000. His swearing-in ceremony will be at 7:45 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 27, at the WFRD Raffel Road fire station, 2900 Raffel Road.

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Woodstock Fire Rescue District chief to retire

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Woodstock Fire/Rescue District Chief Ralph Webster has announced he will retire in October 31. 

“It is my intent to step down before the end of my contract,” Webster said. “This is all amicable. (The board) knows it’s time for a change. I feel like it’s time for some new leadership. Because of all the changes with the Lakewood contract, this seemed like a good time for me to go.”

Webster, 53, said it seemed fitting for him to retire in October, which marks his 25th anniversary with the district. He has presented a leadership transition plan to the WFRD Board of Commissioners, which has yet to be approved. 

He has agreed to stay on with the district, likely in a part-time capacity, for approximately six months, to help the new chief. He estimates the hiring process to tap a new chief will take approximately four months. 

Webster was named chief of the Woodstock Fire Rescue Squad in October 1991. In November 1993, the Woodstock Fire Rescue Squad consolidated with the Woodstock City Fire Department and Woodstock Rural Fire Protection District, forming the WFRD.  At that time, Webster was named chief administrator of the district. Eventually, the administrator portion of his job title was dropped and he became known simply as chief. 

The WFRD has been undergoing staffing and restructuring changes since losing its contract to provide emergency services for the village of Lakewood in November. Lakewood opted to contract with the Crystal Lake Fire Department instead, forcing the WFRD to cut back on the department’s work hours and staffing, particularly those who worked at the Haligus Road station in Lakewood. 

thanks Dan

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Woodstock Fire Rescue District news (more)

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Details are still being determined regarding what cuts will be made to the Woodstock Fire Rescue District after their contract with the village of Lakewood to staff a fire station on Haligus Road was not renewed.

Woodstock Fire Rescue District Chief Ralph Webster said after the board of trustees meeting Thursday night, the only decisions still finalized are the deputy chief position being cut and Webster retiring Oct. 31.

The closing of the Haligus Road station, which was staffed with 12 Woodstock Fire Rescue District employees, means $830,000 in cuts need to be made in the district, Webster said. The change will result in a reduction of wages, hours and positions of part-time ranks, he said.

The Woodstock Career Firefighters IAFF Local 4813 union is working with Webster and other board members to try and address a really difficult situation.

He expects that between March and mid-April, the board will announce its plans for how it will fill the chief position. The restructuring of the department likely will include the addition of a few battalion chiefs to the current staff of about 80 people.

Woodstock residents will not notice a change in services, Webster said, and the department is using this as a chance to reinvent itself.

“I think we’re going to be as strong as ever,” he said. “We’re not cutting staffing in Woodstock. Operationally, we may make some changes, but if we do that it will be in an effort to provide better services.”

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Woodstock Fire Rescue District news (more)

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The first of several changes to come for the Woodstock Fire/Rescue District has been announced since the village of Lakewood declined to renew its emergency services contract with the department.

WFRD Chief Ralph Webster said the deputy chief position will be eliminated by April 30 in an effort to save money and ultimately restructure the department. Eliminating the position, currently held by Deputy Chief Terry Menzel, 59, of Woodstock, will save the district about $150,000.

WFRD employees have been aware future potential cuts and decreased work hours are likely since the department lost the Lakewood contract. “We’re facing a significant loss of revenue,” Webster said. “When we took the Lakewood contract, we told the department that there would be changes if we ever lost the contract. It’s not like this was dropped on everyone at the last minute.”

WFRD was contracted to provide fire rescue services to Lakewood for the past five years. During that time, WFRD staffed Lakewood’s only fire station, at 6570 Haligus Road, independent of its staffing at its Woodstock stations. The Lakewood Village Board voted Nov. 24 not to renew a $750,000 annual contract with the WFRD, opting instead to sign a slightly cheaper agreement with the Crystal Lake Fire Department.

Woodstock’s proposal contained set 1.5-percent increases for each of the subsequent four years. The CLFD cost about $744,000 the first year and had subsequent increases built in based on a formula using the village’s property tax base. CLFD will continue working from its own Bard Road station – built years ago when it previously was contracted to provide fire services for Lakewood – but will not use the Haligus Road station.

The two contract proposals were close in cost. That factor, combined with closing a fire station on Haligus Road, left Webster questioning the move.

In restructuring for the future, the WFRD will create two battalion chief positions to serve under the fire chief. Webster has been working with union leaders to address the reduction in staff and work hours. It is possible longtime, part-time employees of the district could lose their jobs.  At the same time, WFRD leaders are trying to restructure the district to align with future needs. WFRD is the result of the 1993 merging of Woodstock Rural Fire Protection District, the Woodstock Rescue Squad and Woodstock City Fire Department.

“We’re trying to push the organizational structure along,” Webster said. “Internally, it makes a lot of sense. We may be reducing some of the part-time positions. We don’t know which ones yet, and there may be a reduction in wages. We’ll be meeting with people in those groups soon. We’re kind of seeing an end of an era.”

Webster said more changes will be announced as decisions are made. The WFRD Board of Trustees next meeting will be at 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 25, at Station 3, 2900 Raffel Road.

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Woodstock Fire Rescue District news

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There will have to be some changes made in the Woodstock Fire Rescue District after its contract was not renewed with the village of Lakewood, Woodstock Fire Chief Ralph Webster said.

Woodstock has staffed Lakewood’s only fire station on Haligus Road for the past five years and the station now will be closing. There are 12 Woodstock Fire Rescue District employees who staff the station, Webster said. He is working on a plan to keep as many of the 12 employees as possible, but they can’t keep everybody.

“There’s gonna have to be some change,” Webster said. “Either reduction in hours spread across all employees, or actually the elimination of some positions.”

The Lakewood Village Board voted, 3-1, with one trustee abstaining to go with a slightly cheaper contract offered by the Crystal Lake Fire Department that tied increases to the village’s tax base over renewing its contract with the Woodstock Fire Rescue District.

Woodstock’s agreement would have cost $750,000 the first year and increase by 1.5 percent each of the next four years, according to a letter sent by Webster to the village. The village also would pay an annual $25,000 capital contribution to go toward equipment purchases.

Under the new agreement, the Crystal Lake Fire Department will continue to operate its Bard Road station – a station that was built when Crystal Lake handled Lakewood’s fire service with serving that territory in mind – with the current staff of four to five personnel, Crystal Lake Fire Chief Paul DeRaedt has said.

Crystal Lake Fire Department services will cost about $744,000 the first year, a number that is based on applying the Crystal Lake Rural Fire Protection District’s tax rate to the village’s property tax base, according to a draft agreement. The underlying calculation would dictate the fee each year for the length of the 10-year agreement, which can be renewed in five-year increments four times.

Webster said he will be presenting his plan to the Woodstock Fire Rescue District Board of Trustees after the new year, and implement changes starting in February.

For Lakewood, the change means it would not be responsible for building a new fire station in the future, and the village can sell its fire equipment and pay off that internal loan, Lakewood Village Manager Catherine Peterson previously said in a memo to the board.

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