Updated: July 2, 2013 7:27AM
The future of the Dixmoor Fire Department is uncertain, but no decision was made Wednesday night by the village board at a meeting to discuss the village’s financial problems and how to best overcome them.
Residents, firefighters and members of the Service Employees International Union Local 73 packed the meeting room at the village hall amid rumors that the fire department might be disbanded.
Mayor Dorothy Armstrong, who took office May 8, said the village is experiencing a budget deficit of more than $1 million and must reduce its spending by a like amount.
The fire department has 20 firefighters, and Armstrong said it’s costing the village “$773,000 per year. A third of our income is going to the fire department.”
Armstrong and village trustees are discussing whether to eliminate the department and outsource fire services. She said if the village did outsource, it would take about six months to a year to do so.
“We’re not saying it’s a definite plan, but we definitely have to make some cuts and changes,” Armstrong said.
This isn’t first time there was talk of eliminating the Dixmoor Fire Department. It was discussed in late 2011.
“These guys work just over minimum wage, and the village is trying to get rid of them,” resident Katelyn Surane said.
Mable Chapman, a resident for 59 years, said she has watched the village regress over the years, but that something had to be done about its poor financial condition. She said she didn’t want Dixmoor to be in the same predicament as Dolton, a neighboring suburb on the verge of bankruptcy.
“The firefighters do not live in the village, so they’re not contributing to our tax base,” Chapman said.
Fire Chief Steve McCain said that while not all firefighters live in the village, they spend 100 days per year working there.
“These guys give their hearts and souls. We have to make the right decision,” McCain said. “Hopefully we can get together and work this thing out.”
Armstrong said she would like to maintain the department if at all possible. She said the village board will hold a series of meetings before a final decision is made.