While the Orland Fire Protection District trustees and firefighter representatives discuss the next firefighter contract terms, a residency requirement for all new hires may arise.
But that will depend if there is greater interest in the idea than there appears to be now.
Board president James Hickey presented the idea that all new hires would have to move within the district after no more than a year from starting their respective jobs during a recent closed session.
The point would be to beef up the local tax base with a new crop of spenders moving into the area, and it would help in an emergency if extra people needed to be called in, Hickey said to reporters after Tuesday’s board meeting.
“I believe that that would help our local businesses,” Hickey said. “It would help housing. It would help everything when you’re making everybody live within the district. We’ve brought it up, and we’ll bring it up in our union talks. Everyone thought it was a great idea.”
But the other board trustees don’t see it that way.
Trustee Blair Rhode described the idea as “complicating,” and said there are more important issues to focus on right now in the contract discussions.
“In the few minutes we talked about it, I felt when someone is hired there’s a trial period,” Rhode said. “We can’t expect them to move if they don’t know they have a job. They might not be able to sell a house they own. I think we have bigger fish to fry. I think it’s a feel good thing. We would like people to live in the district, but practically it’s not viable. I’d like to get rid of political gimmicks and just fix things.”
Trustee Chris Evoy agreed that it isn’t a priority, describing it as “the bottom of the totem pole” for importance.
“I’m open to hear the pros and cons on it and other proposals,” Evoy said. “But other aspects are more significant right now.”
Trustee Martin McGill said such a requirement might limit the talent pool.
“It’s hard to get qualified people as is,” McGill said. “I’m not in favor of it. I want to see the community thrive, but a residency requirement for the chiefs and battalion chiefs is enough.”
McGill noted that a rule was put in place that firefighters had to live within 25 miles of the district, which he said is plenty adequate.
The fire chief and battalion chiefs are on call and are required to live within the district.
Trustee Glenn Michalek also said he wasn’t in favor of a residency requirement either.
Wally Rafacz, president of the Orland Firefighters Local 2754, said the union is willing to listen to and discuss any proposals, but he didn’t say whether he was for or against a residency requirement.
Hickey said should the requirement be included as part of the next firefighter contract, all current staff and personnel would be grandfathered in, but new hires would have to abide. He guessed it would take about 20 years before the full district would all be living with the boundaries, should the idea become reality.
Hickey said the variety of housing options in Orland Park, Orland Hills and the unincorporated areas covered by the district would offer enough pricing options for staff.
“If you know you have to live in the district and you don’t want to move, then you don’t apply to the district,” Hickey said, when asked if the requirement might limit the pool of applicants.
The Orland Fire Protection District Board of Trustees meets next 5 p.m. Tuesday at the Administration Center, 9788 W. 151 St.