Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Fire District 2012 Budget proposes savings to taxpayers while preserving the highest levels of fire protection

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Orland Fire Protection District makes major cuts in budget

The Orland Fire Protection District board is expected to vote Tuesday to approve next year’s budget significantly reducing expenditures while maintaining the highest level of safety services.

The new budget proposes spending of only $29.3 million, a savings of $830,000 compared to the 2011 budget of $30.1 million. The majority of the budget, about 90 percent, reflects fixed personnel costs that cannot be cut because of union negotiated contracts.

But OFPD Board President Jim Hickey said the $830,000 savings, which reflects only 2.8 percent of the total budget, is misleading. The real savings, he said, reflects the difference between last year’s budget and what next year’s budget would have been without the board action to implement cost-saving efficiencies and cutbacks.

“The reality is that if we had not acted with a mindset to better manage spending, next year’s 2012 budget could easily have reached $32 million because of the many built-in costs that had to be included. Compare that to the 2012 budget of $29.3 million that we are proposing,” Hickey said.

“When we look at the actual change in the budget from last year, we really managed to cut and off-set as much as $2.7 million. When you compare our new budget of $29.3 million with what could certainly have been the budget for 2012, $32 million, based on how the past board leadership managed this district, taxpayers are realizing a significant savings.”

Hickey said the new 2012 budget proposal is expected to be voted on by the full board on Tuesday.

Several mandatory spending projects were off-set by the new board’s efforts to hold the line on spending. Some of those costs include about $600,000 for mandatory wage increases called for by the unions. Although three new positions will be included in the budget, many more existing positions had to be eliminated without resulting in a  reduction of front line fire fighting personnel.

Two other major expenses, Hickey said, that the Orland Fire Protection District is required to spend include Communications upgrades for next year of $100,000. Nearly $200,000 is also needed to pay for improvements to the District’s OptiCom system which allows emergency fire vehicles to control intersection street lights.

“People can play with the numbers all they want. Some will say we only cut 2.8 percent from the total budget, or they might say we cut 28 percent of the part of the budget we had control of,” Hickey said.

“In the end, I think we addressed the two most important issues to our citizens. First, has service changed and the answer is no. If anything, service continues to improve. Second, how much would we have paid as taxpayers next year had we not pursued this hold-the-line approach to the budget and that would have been $32 million with no cuts? That is a different of $2.7 million that taxpayers won’t have had to pay next year in additional spending had nothing been done to bring our budget under control.”

Hickey said that with support of two new board members who ran on a fiscal integrity platform, Chris Evoy and Dr. Blair Rhode, taxpayers will realize a sizable savings next year.

“I thank all of the board members and the Orland Fire Protection District administration for all the hard work put in to this open budget process,” Hickey said.

“But in particular, I want to thank Chris and Blair for their support in holding the line on spending. For many residents, the Orland Fire Protection District represents the third largest amount on our property tax bills. We must be accountable to the public. We are putting all the budget documents online so the public can scrutinize them on their own. We made sure that this budget process was the most open it has ever been in the district’s history.”

Hickey said he expects some of the board’s critics will instead continue to focus on political issues rather than on the positive changes that will benefit residents long term.

Hickey also said that while the budgeted expenses are $29.3 million for 2012, revenues are only $29.1 million.

“That difference is not a shortfall, though. The budget reflects $200,000 that we will be spending to purchase a new ambulance and equipment for it. That money will come from the Capitol Projects Fund which is essentially our savings and is set aside to cover just such an important purchase,” Hickey said.

“In addition to giving taxpayers a major savings, this new budget is also balanced.”

Hickey said the new budget also includes funds to add three new firefighter positions. Although the positions are budgeted, the decision to hire the firefighters or use the funds for overtime will be one decided by the board.

“Our priority is the safety and financial interests of the taxpayers. We think we can balance both together with sacrifice from the other,” Hickey said.


Monday, November 28, 2011

Santa Arrives at the Orland Fire Protection District & Support the Keep the Wreath Red Campaign

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Santa Arrives at the Orland Fire Protection District

Saturday, December 10, 2011, 10 a.m. – Noon, Orland Administration Building, 9790 W. 151st St.

Donations of toys or pet supplies from our wish list will be accepted.

Don’t Forget to bring your camera if you want to get your picture taken with Santa!**

ALSO, support the  Keep the Wreath Red Campaign

Keep the Wreath Red has become an annual event with the Orland Fire District. The program is designed to focus an awareness of safety while decorating our homes for the holidays.

How the program works is each fire station places a wreath on the front of their building and lights it with a string of red lights. The wreaths remain lit twenty-four hours a day throughout the holiday season. Whenever a fire occurs that is a result of holiday decorations, a white bulb replaces a red bulb on the wreath. This serves as a constant reminder to practice safety while installing and displaying holiday decorations.

Visit our website for more information on the Holiday Drive and the Wish List at

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Profile: OFPD Engineer Matt Burke

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Matt Burke, 43, never realized that he was a part of a family of firefighters when he was younger. But when he turned 18, something inside of him pushed him to want to make firefighting as he career choice.

Burke studied at Moraine Valley Community College when he became a paid-on-call firefighter.

“When I was hired, my mother was so proud and she started to tell me about all of the relatives and cousins in our family who were firefighters, too,” Burke recalled.

“I kind of knew that but it really didn’t hit me until I actually put on the uniform how important the decision was that I had made in my life.”

Burke said he doesn’t regret the choice at all.

“Being a firefighter looked like an exciting career. I wanted to help people. It was always inside me and I really enjoy the challenge,” Burke said.

Burke left the North Palos Fire District after two years and joined the Palos Fire District where he spent 10 years in uniform.  While working part-time at Palos, he started testing for full-time firefighter/paramedic positions.  After many tests, he was hired by Chicago Ridge Fire Department.  Less than two years later, he received a call from the Orland Fire Protection District that he was part of the next hiring list.  He then became a full-time employee with them.  During the first year, he also joined the Evergreen Fire Department as a part-time firefighter/paramedic.

“I did most of my major training and received some of my certifications and education at the Palos Fire District.  I completed the rest of my certifications at Orland Fire District,” Burke said, noting it is not easy to become a firefighter.

“It really is about training and education. I tested at all of the fire departments that I worked at and received a lot of hands-on training. It’s very competitive. We’re constantly training. I just came back from a training session today on dealing with cardiac issues.”

Firefighters are tested for mental aptitude, physical agility and psychological stamina.  And after completing this testing he was hired in May of 1994 by the Orland Fire Protection District.

Most firefighters are cross trained as paramedics. It’s common in the suburbs and it’s especially true here in the Orland Fire Protection District.  I trained to be a paramedic while at Palos Fire District and graduated in June of 1990.

As a firefighter, Burke says he faces many challenges in the day-to-day routine of fighting fires, responding to trauma calls and all kinds of emergencies.

Even when he is off-duty, Burke says, he is prepared for anything.

“Last May, my wife and I were coming home from a vacation on Southwest Airlines. We were about an hour in to the return trip when the flight attendants announced on the intercom on the plane asking for anyone with medical training,” Burke recalled.

“They asked if anyone was a doctor or had medical training to put their call light on. I put mine on and then got up from my seat and walked toward the part of the plane where the flight attendants were gathered around the passenger.”

Apparently, a woman who worked at the Aurora Fire Department had fainted. Her pulse was barely noticeable, Burke remembered.

“She was sweating profusely and she was white as a sheet. We didn’t know what happened,” Burke said. “She looked in trouble.”

Burke said his paramedic training immediately kicked in. The flight attendants got a doctor on the airplane headset and Burke described who he was and his training. He advised that the passenger needed an IV and the doctor agreed.

“We picked her up and laid her across three seats with her feet elevated to get her blood circulating through her body,” Burke said. “I then started the IV. You could barely feel her pulse. We were concerned. But she was revived and we sat with her and spoke with her for the remaining part of the trip.”

Burke said the plane landed at Midway Airport about two hours later and she was taken by ambulance to a nearby hospital where she was treated.

“I always wondered how she was,” Burke said. “She was very grateful that we could help her.”

Burke says that the additional training he received helped prepare him to respond to any emergency he encounters, either at work, at home or while traveling.

Nearly all of the Orland Fire Protection District firefighters are trained as paramedics, he said.

“I’m always ready to help to someone in need. You have to be as a firefighter,” Burke said.

Burke currently holds the rank of engineer. He is the driver for Truck Four, the Ladder. His wife is Heather and they have three children, Reilly Lynn, 13, Quinn, 10, and Morgan, 9.


Friday, October 7, 2011

What will you do to protect your family from fire during Fire Prevention week this year?

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What will you do to protect your family from fire during Fire Prevention week this year? 
By Raymond Kay
Acting Chief, Orland Fire Protection District

Bringing special public attention to protecting lives and property from the dangers of fire has been a national campaign since 1920 in the United States called Fire Prevention Week which this year begins October 9 through Oct. 15.

Fire prevention week originated in 1922 and is always scheduled for the week that includes October 9th.  In 1871 on October 8th the Great Chicago Fire was started.  The fire burned for some period of time but the most significant damage took place on October 9th.   This conflagration killed more than 250 people, left approximately 100,000 people homeless, destroyed over 17,000 structures and burned more than 2,000 acres.  This tragic fire became the driving force behind the Fire Prevention Week initiative.

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) fire prevention theme this year, Protect Your Family From Fire, speaks to three recent close calls.  On three different days over the course of the last three months families narrowly escaped from the dangers of fire.

In July, seven residents, adults and children alike were startled from their sleep well after midnight by several good Samaritans who saw that the attached garage was well involved in fire.  The strangers along with several Orland Park Police officers woke the residents and helped them to safety.  The fire in this case was only minutes away from spreading into the children’s bedroom when they escaped.

On a beautiful August Saturday, just after 12 pm, a fire erupts in the garage of a four unit townhouse.  The resident is awake and moving about in a seemingly normal day.  The fire moves so quickly that he escapes with only the clothes on his back.  Two of the four attached units are damaged by the fire.  Most importantly, nobody was injured from the smoke and flames.

It is Patriot Day, September 11, the tenth anniversary of the terrorist attacks upon our country.  In between a number of memorial services, 8:30 in the morning fire strikes in the basement of another townhouse, the family is still asleep.  An adult smells smoke, realizes that the house is on fire, calls 911 for help and wakes other adults and the children guiding them out of the burning structure.  Luckily, there are no injuries.  In this case, there are no working smoke detectors.

Three groups of people were fortunate this summer; they all experienced a close call narrowly avoiding injury or death from smoke and fire.  The incidents shared here all took place at different times of day.  Some residents were fast asleep and others wide awake.  The fires started in different parts of the home. 

Luckily the only common thread among these fires is that nobody was injured.  All of these fires could have had very different, tragic outcomes.

Fire can strike at any time.  You have the opportunity to prevent fires, quickly detect smoke or fire and the ability plan your escape.  Use resources like the Orland Fire Protection District website ( or the NFPA website ( to learn more about:

-      A Family Fire Safety Checklist – where adults and kids can play a role in your home’s fire safety
-      Smoke Detectors – Change your batteries twice per year
-      Practice your escape plane – Exercise your plan with the whole family twice each year

Happily, the fires from this summer did not result in any injuries.  Visit the websites provided, download your free information and please take the advice of the NFPA - Protect Your Family From Fire.


Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Orland Fire Protection District Budget opened to public for first time

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Orland Fire Protection District Budget process opened to public for first time

OFPD – For the first time in its 42 year official history, the Orland Fire Protection District opened its budget  deliberations to the public and began a line-by-line review of district spending.

OFPD President Jim Hickey and Acting Fire Chief Raymond Kay led the first of three public hearings with board members who attended the meeting Blair Rhode, Chris Evoy and Glenn Michalek.

Hickey said the new process is designed so that interested taxpayers can understand what has been a very complicated budget process in the past.

“We have divided the budget into three parts. Essential spending, spending that is important and spending that is considered beneficial but not always essential to the operation of the Fire District,” Hickey said.

“We have placed district services and spending in each category so that we can ensure that we preserve and protect the high quality of service that the taxpayers are paying for, and to find ways to trim the budget to make it more in line with the challenges of today’s economy and with the spending reflected by other public fire agencies. Our spending is way up there and there is a false notion that spending and quality service are linked.”

Hickey said the OFPD has some of the best trained firefighters in the country, but he said that the past budgets have reflected an attitude that went “way beyond” reason and resulted in excessive spending that in reality didn’t always make a difference in terms of fire quality.

“On Tuesday (Oct. 4) we went through the first part of the budget reviewing eight areas of service, examining the spending needs line-by-line. It was a fascinating process to review what we are doing and how we can do it better and also more efficiently and cost-effectively,” Hickey said.

Hickey said department heads are being asked to bring their budget needs to the board for review, categorizing them in three areas of need from the most important to those that can be more carefully managed.

“The taxpayers are demanding that we look at spending at the fire district,” said Rhode. “The taxes for the fire district are the highest after spending for the local school districts. As a government agency, we have a responsibility to the public not just to give them the best fire protection services but to do so in the most cost-effective manner with an eye towards protecting the hard-earned dollars that they put in to our government.”

Hickey said that the district will hold two more budget meetings on Tuesday Oct. 11 and Tuesday Oct. 18, both beginning at 5 pm. The district’s regularly scheduled board meeting is Tuesday Oct. 25, also at 5 pm.

Since the new board was sworn in, the district has saved more than $1 million, mainly through personnel changes and cutbacks in costs from reducing media consulting costs by $12,000 to reducing some non-essential services.

Evoy said that he is hopeful that the District’s new Springfield Lobbyist will help identify funding sources that will be used to help cover costs that now come from taxpayer pockets. The District’s lobbyist in Springfield is Cheryl Axley who was hired in June. Axley joins consultant Cindy Katsenes who is working for the district pro bono and is looking at ways to better manage the district's personnel budget and assignments.

Hickey said that he is hopeful the district could qualify for grants as much as $500,000 to off-set spending for next year’s budget.

“Our goal is to return money to the taxpayers who continue to do their part by supporting this district,” Hickey said. “We need to do our part.”

Kay said that the previous budget process included the submittal of a request by those who administer the budget, followed by administrative reduction. 

“In the past, the budget preparers did not realize what their budget contained until they saw it again in January when it was distributed,” Kay said.

“This year, after reviewing the sum of all proposals, budget preparers were asked to revisit their budgets with the task of reducing their requests.  As a result of this activity, 1 million dollars were collectively reduced across all budget submittals.”

Each of the budget preparers now have an idea of which components are more critical or not and make adjustments accordingly.  Kay added the preparers are involved in decision-making.

“Each of these people have more of a sense of engagement in their particular areas,” Kay said. “They also understand that this may not be the final action on their budget because they are looking at only a segment of the whole and do not have the opportunity to see the big picture.  I expect that the Board of Trustees will further address these requests to determine a final budget.”

The Orland district area was served by a volunteer fire force that began sometime in 1894, but the District was officially founded in 1973.


Monday, September 26, 2011

It’s Fire Prevention Week. Protect your Family from Fire! Orland Fire Protection District Encourages Residents to Keep their Homes Safe During Fire Prevention Week, October 9-15, 2011

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For more information, contact:
Nancy Mulvihill/Public Educator

It’s Fire Prevention Week. Protect your Family from Fire!  
Orland Fire Protection District Encourages Residents to Keep their Homes Safe
During Fire Prevention Week, October 9-15, 2011

October 8, 2011 -- What’s the best way to protect your family from fire? Be ahead of the game, of course. With more than 360,000 home fires reported in the United States in 2009, according to the nonprofit National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), your best defense is a good offense. That’s why the Orland Fire Protection District is teaming up with NFPA during the October 9-15, 2011, to let our community know: “It’s Fire Prevention Week. Protect your Family from Fire!” This year’s campaign focuses on preventing the leading causes of home fires -- cooking, heating and electrical equipment, as well as candles and smoking materials. Additionally, it urges people to protect their homes and families with life-saving technology and planning.

“In 2009, 2,565 people died in home fires. Nearly all of these deaths could have been prevented by taking a few simple precautions like having working smoke alarms and a home fire escape plan, keeping things that can burn away from the stove and always turning off space heaters before going to bed,” says Acting Chief Raymond Kay of the Orland Fire Protection District. “Fire is a dangerous opponent, but by anticipating the hazards, you are much less likely to be one of the nearly 13,000 people injured in home fires each year.”

The Orland Fire Protection District offers the following tips for protecting your home and family from fire:
  • Stay in the kitchen while you are frying, grilling, or broiling food. If you leave the kitchen for even a short period of time, turn off the stove.
  • Keep anything that can burn at least three feet away from heating equipment, like the furnace, fireplace, wood stove, or portable space heater.
  • Have a three-foot “kid-free zone” around open fires and space heaters.
  • Replace or repair damaged or loose electrical cords.
  • If you smoke, smoke outside.
  • Use deep, wide ashtrays on a sturdy table.
  • Blow out all candles when you leave the room or go to bed. Avoid the use of candles in the bedroom and other areas where people may fall asleep.
“While preventing home fires in the Orland Fire District is always our number one priority, it is not always possible,” Acting Chief Kay continued. Orland Park and Orland Hills residents need to provide the best protection to keep their homes and families safe in the event of a fire. This can be achieved by developing an escape plan which you practice regularly and equipping homes with life-saving technologies like smoke alarms and home fire sprinklers.”

The following tips will help keep your family safe if there is a fire in your home:
  • Install smoke alarms inside each bedroom, outside each sleeping area, and on every level of the home (including the basement).
  • Interconnect all smoke alarms in the home so when one sounds, they all sound.
  • Test smoke alarms at least monthly and replace all smoke alarms when they are 10 years old or sooner if they do not respond when tested.
  • Make sure everyone in your home knows how to respond if the smoke alarm sounds.
  • Pull together everyone in your household and make a plan. Walk through your home and inspect all possible ways out.  Households with children should consider drawing a floor plan of your home, marking two ways out of each room, including windows and doors.
  • If you are building or remodeling your home, consider installing home fire sprinklers.
The Orland Fire Protection District will be hosting an Open House on October 8th during Fire Prevention Week to promote “It’s Fire Prevention Week. Protect your Family from Fire!” Through these educational, family-oriented activities, residents can learn more about the power of prevention and available technologies to protect their own families from fire.  Also, during our open house we will be celebrating Sparky’s 60th Birthday, all kids that bring in a blanket or dog food to be donated to an animal shelter will get their picture taken with Sparky. (Pictures will be emailed to the family).  Stop by for “Touch a Truck” and see all the Fire District’s Equipment including the Dive Squad.  We will also be doing auto extrication and a live fire/sprinkler demonstration.

Also this year we will be hosting our Annual Coloring Contest Awards Ceremony at 12:30 p.m. All finalists will be on display for everyone to see.

To find out more about Fire Prevention Week programs and activities in the Orland Fire Protection District, please contact Nancy Mulvihill at 708-873-2742 or visit our website at:  for more information about the Open House or any other event going on in the community. To learn more about “It’s Fire Prevention Week. Protect your Family from Fire!” visit NFPA’s Web site at 

Saturday, August 13, 2011

OFPD responds to house fire

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The Orland Fire Protection District  responded to a reported structure fire in the 11300 block of Poplar Creek Lane at about 5:15 Friday (August 12) afternoon.  Initial companies found heavy smoke conditions from the rear of the roof.  The fire was found on the external part of the wooden shingle roof.  The fire was extinguished quickly as a result of our rapid response to the incident.  The potential existed to burn the entire wooden shingle roof.

Crews checked for fire extension inside of the home and in the attic space.  The fire never penetrated the plywood decking of the roof structure, keeping the fire out of the living areas of the home.

There were no injuries during the incident.  Crews responded quickly and had the fire under control in a matter of a few minutes.  Embers from an open fire in the back yard is likely the cause of the fire.

Crews checked for potential hidden fire in the attic by creating a small inspection hole in the ceiling of the second floor bathroom.  Care was taken to protect the personal belongings of the homeowner as fire extension was being evaluated.

(Photos courtesy of the OFPD and may be reproduced with attribution by news media.)

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Orland Fire Protection District recognizes fast action by citizens and police officials

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Orland Fire Protection District recognizes fast action by citizens and police officials
Actions helped save lives

The Orland Fire Protection District recognized five civilians and three members of the Orland Police Department for their quick actions that in each case helped to save lives and minimize the risk of danger.

OFPD Acting Chief Raymond Kay presented Certificates of Merit and Recognition to the eight recipients at District's regularly scheduled board meeting Tuesday July 26.

Seven of the recipients played key roles in helping respond to a fire that started in the attached garage of a home at Clearview and Terry Drive in Orland Park in the early morning hours following Fourth of July celebrations.

Kay presented certificates to Mohammad Rahman and to his two nephews, Nijem and Hatim Abderrhahman.

"Mohammed, Nijem and Hatim were driving by around 1 am returning from work when they saw the fire in the garage and immediately called 911 and pounded on the door to awaken the family," Kay said.

The family of seven, including four children, were fast asleep in the home. Kay said investigators could not determine an official cause for the fire.

Katherine Garrity was also recognized with a certificate for also calling 911 to report the fire.

And three members of the Orland Park Police who responded to the emergency with the Orland Fire Protection District firefighters were also honored. They are Officers Joseph  O'Brien, Christopher  Losurdo and Thelbert Heatherly.

In another incident, motorist Christine Binelli came upon an accident involving a motorcyclist on the ramp at I-80 and LaGrange Road, the day before on July 4th. The victim was in traumatic arrest and she immediately pulled over to provide CPR. Her efforts helped sustain the victim until he was transported by Orland and Mokena Fire District employees to the hospital.

"The message here is that the actions of individuals to stop and help can make a difference in emergencies like these and we want to thank them and encourage citizens to stop and help," Chief Raymond Kay said.

"It is so important for citizens to become involved and more importantly to be educated about basic lifesaving techniques and that was demonstrated in each of these cases."

Kay noted that the fast response and action from firefighters were critical in the outcomes.

"The firemen are there to do this job to save lives, respond to fires and emergencies. We're proud of the work we do and that the public expects from us. But we certainly appreciate the support that we get from a public educated about lifesaving techniques," Kay said.

# # #

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Fire District responds to home fire started by lightning strike during Sunday's thunderstorms

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Sunday JULY 24, 2011

Lightning strikes Orland Park home and causes fire

Orland Park -- A home on the block of 8400 and Country Club Lane in Orland Park was hit by lightning during this morning's thunderstorms causing damage to the homes attic, officials of the Orland Fire Protection District said.

The fire was reported at the home at just after 10 am Sunday by a passerby who did not identify himself and no one was injured, Fire District officials said.

"The first arriving units found a fire in the attic.  A coordinated fire attack strategy enabled companies to gain access to the house, extinguish the fire and protect the homeowner’s belongings in a simultaneous action," said Acting Fire Chief Raymond L. Kay.

"Multiple fire companies responded to the incident making the coordinated attack possible.  Quick actions and coordinated efforts can be attributed to the level of training and experience of these responders."

Kay said that an investigation at the scene concluded the fire was started by a lightning strike minutes before.

"Fire companies worked to protect the homeowner’s belongings by moving items away from the fire area and by covering other articles with protective tarps.  After the fire was extinguished, crews worked to remove attic insulation from the house, which was disturbed in the course of fighting the fire," Kay said.

Kay said in addition to putting out fires and saving lives, the firefighters make saving the personal property of homeowners a priority. He said there were no injuries during this incident.

The fire department worked with the homeowners and the board up company to secure the hole in the roof caused by the lightening strike, in order to prevent further damage by rain.

# # #

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Southtown's Columnist Phil Kadner explores the OFPD move to make public records truly public

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Phil Kadner, the columnist for the Southtown/Star, wrote a column in the Saturday (July 23) newspaper edition that detailed efforts by local governments, including the Orland Fire Protection District to publish all public records online.

Click here to read the column.

The Orland Fire Protection District took the first steps to provide full public transparency and that was quickly followed by announcements that others would follow, including from the Village of Orland Park which announced it will do the same but is still working on making the documents public.

Employees of the Orland Fire Protection District should be proud that they are leading the way to give the public full transparency and full information about how their tax dollars are being spent.

# # #

Friday, July 22, 2011

Orland Fire Protection District posts salary, compensation and benefits listing

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Although the Orland Fire Protection District has in the past published the general non-specific overview of employee wages as required by law, the board has directed the posting of the specific details of all employee wages to provide complete transparency for the public.

The posting allows the public to better understand how its taxpayer funds are spent by the OFPD.

Click here for the link to the full wages and compensation document.

Click here for the link to the annual Treasurer's report which lists wages based on "ranges."

Full Press Release from OFPD Board President Jim Hickey:


Ray Hanania
Tuesday July 19, 2011

Orland Fire Protection District releases full wage breakdown for 2010

Orland Park -- The Orland Fire Protection District Tuesday released a comprehensive breakdown of all wages that employees received during the calendar year 2010 as a part of a new effort to provide full public transparency.

OFPD Board President Jim Hickey said the document is intended to educate taxpayers and the public about how their money is spent and allow a better understanding of the economic challenges facing the district.

In releasing the records, Hickey also called on the Village of Orland Park to follow suit and urged the Illinois General Assembly to enact legislation requiring that the full and comprehensive wages of all public employees in all government and public agencies be made public without the requirement of a Freedom of Information Act request.

"The public has an absolute right to know how their money is being spent. Withholding this information, as the Orland Fire Protection District has done in the past, has put the interests of taxpayers of the district at a disadvantage," Hickey said.

"How can the public properly assess what is appropriate spending practices when they have absolutely no idea what salaries their employees receive. Each and every member of the Orland Fire Protection District works for the taxpayers. Not releasing the information has sent an inaccurate message about the district and has fed negative stereotypes and misconceptions about the district."

Hickey said as a board member for only two years under the prior administration, the information was not even made public to board members.

"I am stunned by the numbers myself. I can't imagine how a district board or commission can exercise their fiduciary responsibilities fully without knowing the totality of the wages being paid to our employees," Hickey said.

Hickey said he believes the public will at first react with "sticker shock" at the numbers, but releasing the information will help the district get a better handle on expenses.

"Just after the Orland Fire Protection District has begun a full transparency campaign to release all public records and place them for easy and immediate public access on the district's web site, the City of Chicago did the same releasing, for the first time, a complete list of all monies received by city workers. This is long overdue," Hickey said.

"I hope other government agencies will follow suit and help restore public confidence in our governments and public officials. I urge the Illinois General Assembly to enact legislation mandating that this information be made available publicly every year without hesitation."

Hickey noted that the Village of Orland Park also announced this week plans to post public records on their web site.

"It's something the public has been seeking for a long time. Other municipalities should do the same," Hickey said.

Hickey said he knows employees will be angry that their wages will be made public but he pointed out, "Firefighters are apparently doing very well financially, which is not something we can say about the rest of society. Not releasing the data suggests they had something to hide. I don't agree that they have anything to hide. But I do know this document will help us as we move forward to get a handle on costs and better manage our spending."

Hickey said he has the full support of a majority of the board including Trustees Blair Rhode and Christopher Evoy.

Important Points:
  • ·         Releasing the full wages gives the public a complete understanding of the Fire District
  • ·         In no way is releasing the list of full wages a criticism of the firefighters, although clearly it does show that during the past eight years the union has had more leverage over costs than the needs of the taxpayers
  • ·         I support the unions but believe the district has been too generous; our firefighters are among the highest paid in the state and probably in the region which directly impacts taxpayer costs
  • ·         I think we can provide a high quality of firefighting services to our taxpayers without paying so much. Today's economy demands that we re-asses what we have been doing
  • ·         Chicago, which has a very professional and effective fire department pays far less. Mayor Rahm Emanuel also this week released the complete wages of all of the employees in the City of Chicago including firefighters. I think the village of Orland Park and other government agencies should do the same. A better and fully educated public can be more supportive of public service employees like firefighters.
  • ·         here is what the numbers show. Most workers contribute from their salaries to their own pensions but in the case of the OFPD the taxpayers are almost fully paying the pension contribution .. the firefighters are being paid very well in the OFPD and they can contribute to their own pensions and still do better than most people when they retire. The pension contributions are among the largest added benefit to the firefighters but this is closely followed by overtime costs which are too high and must be curbed

"We need to do a better job of representing the interests of the taxpayers when we negotiate with the unions in the future. The past administration was too generous and that's because the public was unaware of what they were being forced to pay. At least the taxpayers should have a voice in what wages should be in the future ," Hickey said.

This circumstance is like a company which doesn't even know what they are paying their employees, Hickey argued. The company and owners in this case are the taxpayers. This cannot continue.

Hickey said the wages will be published every year moving forward. (In the past, the wages were partially published in "wage groups." The OFPD published a list of employees based in a grouping of wage ranges, but the listing did not identify benefits which are also paid completely by the District.)


Thursday, July 21, 2011

Southtown/Star news report on OFPD wages and insurance costs

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The Southtown/Star this morning ran a story on the Orland Fire Protection District's wages including a discussion on the costs of insurance. Click HERE to view the story.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

WBBM News report on neighbors helping to alert homeowners of fire

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News report by WBBM AM Radio on neighbors who alerted a homeowner of a fire.

Click here to read and listen to the report.

Click here to read the former news report.

Chicago Tribune looks at all sides of wage debate

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The Chicago Tribune has a frontpage story this morning that explores the issue of wages for the Orland Fire Protection District. The story is based on the release of last year's full wage accounting, a document that is expected to be posted online later this week.

The story addresses comparisons between the OFPD and other districts, and has the pros and cons of the wage rates reflected in a wide range of comments.

The release of the wage document for calendar year 2010 is the result of the new board's decision to make all public documents actually available to the public, including contracts and important board policy decisions, documents that in the past have remained secret and unavailable to the public.

The Village of Orland Park also announced this week plans to publish their complete wage document for all employees including basic pay, overtime and all compensation. The release of this information is considered public information and should be released to insure that the public has an accurate understanding of how their taxpayer dollars are being spent.

Here are the links to stories:

Tribune story Wed July 20, 2011

Tribune graphic July 20

Orland Park Patch story

Southtown/Star story on Village of Orland Park plans for transparency by next month

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Alert neighbors and quick fire response helped save family in fire this morning

Ray Hanania

Alert neighbors and quick fire response helped save family in fire this morning

Orland Park -- Alert neighbors and a fast response from the Orland Fire Protection District played major roles in saving the lives of a family and preventing further damage to a home where a fire broke out very early this morning.

Acting Fire Chief Raymond L. Kay credited the neighbors and the Fire District response with keeping the fire damage to a minimum and savings lives. Orland Park police were also fast on the scene alerting the homeowners and family.

Chief Kay said the family of seven including three young children were asleep when the fire broke out in the home's attached a garage area around 1:16 AM. The first fire truck arrived at the scene at the corner of Clearview and Terry Drive at 1:19 AM. Firefighters discovered the two car garage in heavy fire.

Firefighters quickly contained the fire preventing it from expanding into the living areas, Chief Kay said.

"The owners, who were asleep, were alerted to the fire by neighbors  pounding on the front door," Chief Kay said.

"It was 1:15 in the morning and the residents were sleeping. Fortunately, the neighbors saw this. Had the neighbors not responded and had this fire gone unchecked, it would have gotten in to the living area of the house. I think our quick response and the role of the neighbors and the police were clearly instrumental in saving those lives."

Kay said none of the occupants, including four adults and three children, were injured.

He said that the investigation has not identified a cause but he could not rule out the fire being started by any fireworks from the 4th of July celebrations that evening.

"The construction features of the home prevented smoke and fire from entering the living areas and that's just a reminder about how important these features are to protecting lives," Chief Kay said.

The quick response of multiple Orland FPD fire, police and EMS companies provided for simultaneous search and rescue, fire extinguishment and fire extension operations, Chief Kay explained. These simultaneous actions prevent the loss of life and the protection of property.

"These actions proved to be vital," Chief Kay added.

# # #

For first time in history, OFPD posts detailed budget documents

For the first time int he history of the Orland Fire Protection District, detailed budget documents along with contracts, are being posted online for public viewing. In the past, the OFPD Posted a Budget Summary, or annual report offering general overviews of budget issues and spending. But last month, the OFPD board President Jim Hickey directed that the detailed Audit of the last full budget year be published online. The Audit provides a detailed look in to the district's spending and is issued usually in the Spring following the completion of the prior year.

Click here to view the budget audit.

Hickey and members of the board has promised that all public documents will be placed on the OFPD web site for easy public viewing.

"The public has a right to know exactly what the district is doing," said President Hickey.

Hickey's directive is endorsed by two new board members, Blair Rhode and Christopher Evoy.

"I think it is very important for the public to know exactly how their tax dollars are being spent so they have an accurate understanding about the district," Rhode said.

The OFPD budget office is also working on converting the annual budget for placement on the web site. That should be completed this month.

For more information on public information, visit

# # #

Friday, July 1, 2011

OFPD Board trims nearly $500,000 in spending during first 60 days

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                          Ray Hanania
June 30, 2011                                                                                           

OFPD Board trims nearly $500,000 in spending during first 60 days

Orland Park -- The Orland Fire Protection Board cut $486,000 in district spending during its first 60 days in office, moving to realize promises made by the new board that the quality of fire district services will remain high but costs will be trimmed where possible.

OFPD Board President Jim Hickey said that the cost-cutting moves are mandated by the taxpayers and voters and that the cuts will not impact the quality of Fire District services that residents have come to expect.

Hickey said he expects that number to easily double in the next few months and to continue to climb as opportunities to save taxpayer dollars are identified.

"What we are doing is carefully managing spending and cutting where we can without impacting firefighting or emergency medical services," Hickey said.

"Even where we have spent extra money to hire a lobbyist in Springfield to insure that our funding interests are protected and to identify potential grants and monetary sources, we have off-set those costs with other cuts."

Hickey said that the OFPD will continue to update its cost savings using the web site at and the district's new blog at

"We are also using the website and internet to provide public access to board meetings and also to post important documents such as recent contracts, public policy statements and soon a complete and detailed copy of the district budget.

Hickey released the following data on savings by cost and date which is posted on the OFPD Blog Web Site:

- June 28, 2011: OFPD Board votes to retire two bond issues, one set to expire in 2016. Retiring the bonds early will save taxpayers $110,000 in interest payments on the bonds. Expected to be implemented at next board meeting.
Potential Savings: $110,000
- Not filling the vacant position of Battalion Chief.
Savings $215,000
- Reducing board meetings to one per month.
Savings $60,000
- June 2011: Change in the wages of the Human Resources Director from $73,000 to $68,000. 
Savings $5,000.
- June 2011: Elimination of the Public Education director, salaried at $47,000. 
Savings $47,000.
- June 2011: Reduction in the salary of the Executive Secretary to the board, salaried at $65,000 reduced to $37,000.
Savings of $28,000.
-June 2011: Reduction in the consulting fee for communications, previously $48,000 reduced to $36,000 for Urban Strategies Group. 
Savings of $12,000.
-June 2011: Hiring lobbyist Cheryl Axley to monitor OFPD Interests and grant opportunities in Springfield.
Cost $60,000
- May 25, 2011: hiring Del Galdo Law Group.
Savings $48,000
- May 25, 2011: Two trustees (Blair Rhode, Chris Evoy) declining their trustee salaries.
Savings $6,000
- May 25, 2011: Hiring Cindy Katsenes ($25,000) replacing Tom Dubelbeis ($40,000).
Savings $15,000
"Some people may think $486,000 is not enough but I think that if we can do this in 60 days, tighter controls on spending and better management of the district will realize more savings to the taxpayers and still result in a high quality services from our fire protection district," Hickey said.


Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Board cites fast action at TGI Friday with saving life

Board cites fast action at TGI Friday with saving life

The Orland Fire Protection District Board on Tuesday recognized the fast action and life saving training of an employee working at TGI Friday in Orland Park who responded to a female patron who was choking. Lea Elliot was credited with using the Heimlich Maneuver after noticing the customer choking to save the customer's life.

"We are very proud of what Lea Elliot did. Knowing life saving techniques such as the Heimlich Maneuver is very important for public safety," said OFPD Acting Chief Raymond Kay. Elliot was given a plaque to commemorate her lifesaving actions.

The plaque was presented to Lea Elliot by Lt. Mark Duke, OFPD EMS Administrator. The plaque reads:

"On April 8, 2011 a patron of TGI Friday was choking on food that had occluded her airway. The choking patron approached Lea Elliot for help and without hesitation a series of abdominal thrusts were applied and the airway obstruction cleared. As a result of Lea’s quick action a more severe consequence was averted and the patron recovered without injury."

Read a story in the Tribune Local on this citation.

# # #

Orland Fire Protection District to begin job postings online Will expand public participation at board meetings

Orland Fire Protection District to begin job postings online
Will expand public participation at board meetings

Orland Park -- The Orland Fire Protection District board announced Tuesday that they will begin posting paid and volunteer job vacancies to encourage local residents to apply for the positions.

OFPD Board President Jim Hickey also said that the board is expanding the public participation policy at board meetings to encourage more transparency and also adding a new public records section on the Website called "Dollars & Sense".

Currently, Hickey said, the public can make comments and ask questions at board meetings during the public participation portion. But Hickey said that the OFPD will also ask residents who wish to be more specific about district policies to submit their questions ahead of time using the web site by email or by telephone.

"In the past, members of the public would ask questions but the board would not have the answers or just didn't answer. We're going to continue the existing policy but we also want to ask the public if they have specific questions about policies, contracts the budget to submit those questions in writing to the board so we can be prepared at board meetings to provide answers," Hickey said.

Hickey said he would personally ask personnel to provide answers. Residents would have to come to the board meetings, identify themselves by name and address, and their questions will be answered.

"Our goal is full transparency," Hickey explained noting that is one of the priorities of the board's two newest members, Blair Rhode and Christopher Evoy. "We want the public to see and understand everything. This is their tax money. We want them to get the answers to their questions."

Hickey noted that the OFPD has already begun posting contracts and detailed financial statements on the district's web site which is

"We want to post everything that can be made public," Hickey said, noting that some issues involving real estate, criminal probes, personnel matters and lawsuits are exempt under state law from public disclosure to protect the privacy of individuals involved.

"But anything that falls within the range of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) should be made available as soon as possible for public access. We get a lot of FOIA requests and processing those requests require much personnel time. We can save money by allowing the public and the media to access the documents online directly."

Hickey said that job postings would include paid and volunteer positions.

"We have a position open on the Pension Board. In the past, one of the trustees served in that role," Hickey said noting the individual was former board trustee Salvatore Cacciato.

"We don't think that the position should be held by a trustee. We feel that there are members of the public who have experience in pension matters who would be interested in volunteering to join the pension board and provide an independent perspective on pension and district needs."

Hickey said the board is also looking to post future job openings and changes online to recruit qualified residents for the posts.

"We are putting a lot of emphasis on using the website to reach the public, to be an access portal for the public to get the answers they need and to be able to monitor the district's actions at their convenience.

Hickey said that the new board is "coming together" as a group.

"I think the board members all are committed now to saving taxpayer's money. We are looking at staffing requirements and also ways to save funds without impacting the quality of service. That's our mandate," Hickey said.

Hickey said the board will move forward with a study by the Illinois Fire Chief's Association to make recommendations on hiring. Hickey acknowledged that the board conducted a similar study in 2006 that recommended higher staffing levels of as much as 150 firefighters.

"But that was at a different time when the economy was better. They were looking at more tax dollars coming in back then. Today, it's a different story. We need to be conscious of costs and the burden on the taxpayers," Hickey said, noting he was not a member of the board when the study was commissioned.

Hickey said the 2006 study cost the district $56,000 to complete. "The study commissioned by the Illinois Fire Chief's Association will only costs $5,100 to complete and it will give us a better handle on what the district needs to provide the services to our residents," Hickey said.

Hickey said that like all public documents, the commission study will be posted online for the public to scrutinize and assess themselves.

In other business, the board voted to retire two existing bonds including one scheduled to be retired in 2016. Hickey said the board will save $110,000 in interest payments. Hickey also said that in the past, the board would re-issue bonds for projects but he said that practice would likely be stopped.

"Bonds should be retired when their purposes is accomplished. Extending a bond to cover other projects is a backdoor tax increase. When the bond is retired, it will reduce the need to increase taxes as was done in the past," Hickey explained. Most bonds are backed by property taxes.

The board also accepted a budget audit conducted by the districts accountants McCormick, Mulcahy, Pauritsch & Co.

Hickey said the audit will be published online as soon as possible to give the public a first ever direct look at how the district has spent money in the past.

The district is also planning to publish the entire budget on the web site in the coming weeks, once they are converted into a PDF format.

# # #

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Orland Fire Protection District dedicates new headquarters Sunday June 26, 2011

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                         Ray Hanania
Sunday June 26, 2011                                                            

Orland Fire Protection District Headquarters officially dedicated

Orland Park -- The Orland Fire Protection District officially dedicated its new Headquarters with a ribbon cutting and reception Sunday.

Acting Fire Chief Raymond L. Kay told attendees at the new headquarters, 9790 W. 151st Street, Orland Park, that the facility will consolidate the district's fire services.

"It is important that you get a chance to see what takes place in the support building. Our people on the streets run 8,000 calls every year and they need support to get there. Things like dispatch, which is upgraded in our new building," Chief Kay said.

"Things like fire prevention which you will see when you take the tour. Part of keeping our buildings up to code so we have safe buildings in the community. And the administration is here to help make sure things run efficiently," Kay told the gathering.

Orland Fire Protection District Board President James Hickey applauded the dedication but reminded the audience that the ribbon cutting for the headquarters symbolizes a new era in which the district will focus on maintaining and supporting the fire district's high quality of services, and the call of voters and taxpayers to better manage costs.

"I think everyone knows that the Orland Fire Protection District is changing. We're moving forward with a mission given to us by the voters and the taxpayers. In the last election they spoke out loud and clear. They want to preserve the high quality services that the Fire Protection District offers, but they want us to do it with an eye to cost-savings and fiscal efficiencies that make sense," Hickey said to applause.

"They are not just saying cut. They are saying cut where we can to bring down the burden on the taxpayers. That's what this new board is doing. We're doing it with precision and respect. We're trimming down some salaries on some positions. We're working closely with the Fire leadership to find ways to maximize what we can get out of every dollar."

Hickey said the board is committed to "preserving the highest quality fire services that the taxpayers have come to expect. So today, as we inaugurate this new headquarters building, let's look at this as a beginning of a new era to rein in costs while exceeding performance and maintaining quality."

Dedication emcee Battalion Chief Dan Smith also introduced Orland Park Village Trustee Patricia Gira, who attended the dedication, and former trustee Salvatore Cacciato who also briefly spoke about the years he spent helping to bring the headquarters to realization.

Smith said the new headquarters will improve work flow and provide more room to allow more employees to work out of the centralized fire headquarters.

The new State-of-the-Art headquarters building replaces the smaller office property located behind Fire Station 1, Smith said. The new headquarters accommodates about 25 staff (compared to 10 previously). The new board room accommodates up to 80 people and replaces the older room which accommodated about 30 people.

The new building features an expanded training room, the Fire Prevention Bureau and all administration functions and services (parts of which in the past were distributed among the various fire houses). The lower level features a renovated dispatch center which not only services the Orland Fire District but also services Oak Forest and Calumet City Fire Departments. It also provides MABAS (Mutual Aide Box Alarm System) services for extra alarm fire/EMS calls  in Division 19 (Orland/Frankfort /Manhattan area) and also Division 22 (Alsip/Blue Island area) and Division 24 (Tinley Park, Lansing area).

The building received a blessing from Pastor Shawn Nettleton of Christ Lutheran Church.

About 100 people attended the ceremony.

You can view the video of the dedication by clicking this address:

On Youtube:

On Vimeo:

Below are the full remarks of President Hickey:

I want to welcome all of you today to the formal opening of the Orland Fire Protection District headquarters. This new building allows the district to concentrate many of its services and brings together a lot of talent that is dedicated to providing you with the best firefighting services in the region.

I think everyone knows that the Orland Fire Protection District is changing. We're moving forward with a mission given to us by the voters and the taxpayers. In the last election they spoke out loud and clear. They want to preserve the high quality services that the Fire Protection District offers, but they want us to do it with an eye to cost-savings and fiscal efficiencies that make sense.

They are not just saying cut. They are saying cut where we can to bring down the burden on the taxpayers.

That's what this new board is doing. We're doing it with precision and respect. We're trimming down some salaries on some positions. We're working closely with the Fire leadership to find ways to maximize what we can get out of every dollar.

It isn't just the taxpayers who are demanding this. It is mandated by the economic times in which we live. We can't ignore this very important mission.

It can be done and it can be done in a way that will preserve the highest quality fire services that the taxpayers have come to expect.

So today, as we inaugurate this new headquarters building, let's look at this as a beginning of a new era to reign in costs while exceeding performance and maintaining quality.

OFPD Board President James Hickey