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.

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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.

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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

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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.