Orland OKs firefighter hires
BY MIKE NOLAN firstname.lastname@example.org July 25, 2012 1:10PM
Updated: August 27, 2012 11:12AM
More than a year after a decision to hire 11 firefighters was put on hold, the Orland Fire Protection District board on Tuesday approved bringing on a like number of firefighters.
But it’s not yet clear whether a three-member board of fire commissioners will use a firefighter eligibility list that was in place in May 2011, when the hiring decision was delayed, or pick firefighters from a new list.
In a news release, the district said the new hires will “strengthen the fire district’s response time and commitment to public safety.”
Nine of the hires will fill department vacancies created over the past year, the district said in the release.
In May 2011, after two new fire district trustees were sworn in, the board shelved a decision made by the outgoing board to bring aboard 11 firefighters. That vote came after then-Chief Bryant Krizik recommended the hirings to control escalating overtime costs in the district.
However, new board members, elected on a promise to curb what they viewed as runaway spending in the district, said they wanted a better idea of whether additional firefighters were needed.
An analysis of the district’s staffing needs released in December recommended the hiring of six firefighters. The district’s current budget allocates money for three new hires.
“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,” Jim Hickey, the fire board’s president, said in the news release.
Hickey was among the board members in May 2011 to approve the hiring of the 11 firefighters, then voted to stall the hirings after two new board members were sworn in.
Along with Hickey, Trustees Marty McGill and Glenn Michalek voted Tuesday to approve the hirings, while Trustee Blair Rhode voted no. Trustee Chris Evoy wasn’t at the meeting.
Rhode and Evoy were part of the Fiscal Voices for Orland ticket, supported by Cook County Commissioner Liz Gorman (R-Orland Park), and voted in May 2011 to undo the outgoing board’s decision to hire the 11 firefighters.
Including wages and benefits, it will cost an estimated $1.1 million annually to add the 11 firefighters, according to the district. Money earmarked in the budget to pay overtime costs, about $2 million, will be used for the hires, who could be on the job by Thanksgiving, according to Hickey.
Last year’s staffing analysis by the Illinois Fire Chiefs Association stated that hiring six firefighters would “substantially reduce” overtime costs in the district, which in 2010 totaled $1.9 million. The study was overseen by Bob Buhs, a former Orland fire district chief now working for the state fire chiefs association.
After the report was released, Hickey said he was unsure whether six more firefighters were needed, saying the district could do more to get a handle on overtime costs.
The fire district’s three-member board of fire commissioners likely will discuss the hirings when it meets Tuesday. While the commissioners are not obligated to pick firefighters from one eligibility list, the 11 candidates who had been prepared to be hired last year already have undergone a screening process that includes health exams and criminal background checks.
One commissioner, Mary Beth Casper, said in an email she thinks the original 11 firefighters “need to be contacted first and another offer of employment be extended. If they decline, then we should go to the new list.”
“I am just sorry that it took 15 months to resolve and so many families were in limbo for that long,” Casper said.