Tuesday, July 24, 2012

OFPD Votes to hire 11 firefighters

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                      Ray Hanania
July 24, 2012                                                              rayhanania@comcast.net

OFPD Votes to hire 11 firefighters

OFPD, Orland Park, IL., – The Orland Fire Protection District board Tuesday voted to authorize the hiring of 11 firefighters. The new hires will have to be confirmed by the three member OFPD Board of Commissioners.

Fire Chief Ken Brucki said the hiring is based on the staffing needs assessments and are needed and Board President Jim Hickey said the new hires will strengthen the fire district’s response time and commitment to public safety.

Hickey said the District’s Board of Commissioners will have to decide whether to hire the firefighters from the list that was approved and later frozen last year or from a more recent list of qualified candidates.

“By taking this action, we are making sure we have enough manpower to strengthen fire response time for the OFPD,” Hickey said predicting they could be on the force before Thanksgiving or possibly sooner.

Hickey said nine of the new hires will fill vacancies created over the past year. The vote was three to one with Hickey, trustees Marty McGill and Glenn Michalek voting to hire the 11 firefighters and Trustee Blair Rhode voting no. Trustee Chris Evoy was not at the meeting Tuesday.

Hickey said that the former board voted in April 2011 to hire 12 firefighters between the election and when the two new trustees were sworn in to office. Rhode and Evoy had urged the old board not to take any major spending decisions. Hickey voted with the old board in order to allow for a reconsideration vote once the new trustees were sworn in to office.

“I was against the hiring but the vote by the former board could only be reconsidered by the new board if someone who supported the measure decided to reverse their vote, which I did,” Hickey explained.

The hiring decision was put on hold by the new board until a staffing study could be completed and a permanent fire chief was appointed, both done this year.

“The taxpayers demanded accountability. They wanted an end to the past practices where money was spent without true accountability. This board has carefully and comprehensively examined the issue, reviewed the budget and costs and the manpower needs and we’ve concluded that at this time, new hires are justified,” Hickey said.

Brucki, who was hired earlier this year as the permanent fire chief, said he evaluated staffing levels against the proficiency of services.

“I have had the opportunity to study staffing and have concluded we need to hire based on several factors,” Brucki said.

“Public safety needs will always be my priority, and the Board of Trustees has done an excellent job of balancing fiscal responsibility of tax payer money and addressing the service needs of our communities.”

Brucki said the factors are:

·     We have a significant safety issue with regard to our personnel working excessive overtime to fill our staffing needs.
·     -  We have a significant amount of overtime to fill our staffing needs and the most productive way to meet those needs are to hire more people. 
·     -  In an effort to be more fiscally responsible to the tax payer, at this time given our current make-up it is more responsible and more productive to hire people rather than combat an escalating overtime expenditure.”

“We will continually measure the public safety needs and compare those needs with the service we provide.  Our main mission is to continually evaluate our response time and maintain the most professional service with the quickest response this District has established,” Brucki said.

McGill and Michalek both voted for the original hires in 2011 and said they were pleased the board finally moved forward with the hires.

“I’ve always been in favor of the hiring,” McGill said.

"I am against any hiring until a real discussion about minimum staffing and staffing changes.  I am for evaluating call volumes and basing staffing accordingly.  During the meeting, I could not get an answer on 7 pm to 7 am call volumes," Rhode said.

"The public sector needs to take a hard look at the current state of affairs.  We need to take a hard look at legacy costs and realize the, to quote president Obama, fundamental change is required.  We can no longer sustain business as usual.  The long term costs of this staffing volume will ultimately bury this district."

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