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Trustee to Orland Fire District Staff: Cut More Costs

In the first round of the Orland Fire Protection District’s budget workshops for the upcoming year, staff cut about $1 million in proposed costs, but a trustee asks for more.

The first of three budget meetings with board trustees, who have pledged fiscal responsibility since April, began with scrutiny but ended with a hopeful outlook toward lessening costs.

Trustees will go over each line item of the proposed 2012 budget with district staff at the meetings, though about 80 percent of the budget goes toward salaries and benefits, while another 5 to 10 percent involves state costs, according to board president James Hickey. The remaining costs will be examined in meetings Hickey said were the first he knows of where reporters were invited.

“My whole plan for this budget is so we don’t have to lay off firefighters,” Hickey said. “And I want to give the biggest refund check back to our residential citizens.” 

Acting Fire Chief Raymond Kay began Tuesday night’s meeting detailing how fire district managers were tasked with cutting costs from their initial 2012 budget proposals before the meetings, and the result was $1 million in cuts before proposals were given to the board.

But once talk shifted to the first of eight budget areas that would be discussed Tuesday night, trustee Blair Rhode voiced several criticisms about the financial decisions proposed, starting with basic fire clothing assigned to each firefighter. The proposed 2012 cost for basic gear – including a coat, pants and suspenders – was about $40,000 higher than what was spent last year.

“As of September 1, I took a 30 percent across the board pay cut,” Rhode said. “You guys do important things, and I do important things. We all have to come to terms with the fact the system’s broken. We have to save money. We have to decrease costs. All I see is 30 percent increase, 19 percent increase.”

Kay said costs for the gear had risen, and finance director Kerry Sullivan said she would research further why the proposed cost is higher than past years. Trustee Glenn Michalek said while serving as a firefighter, he went through two sets of gear in three years, after contaminants such as tar accumulated on the clothing while crawling on floors.

“I used the same gear for 14 years, but then went to a fire in Bedford Park after getting new gear, and left that fire covered in corn oil that couldn’t be cleaned,” Kay said after the meeting. “I had one set for 14 years, and then had to get a second set within a year’s time.”

By the meetings’ end, Hickey said he calculated about $174,000 more in costs compared to 2011 in the areas discussed Tuesday night: clothing, fire prevention, public education, IT, GIS, dispatch, communications and buildings and grounds. But $100,000 of that amount is tied to a federally-mandated radio narrowband requirement, which would be a one-time cost.

Hickey further pointed out that he believes about $500,000 of the costs proposed Tuesday could be covered by state and federal money. Lobbyist Cheryl Axley, , will be tasked with turning the ideas into reality.

“The past meetings were very quick, ‘see ya later,” Hickey said after the meeting. “Now we’re going line by line. Our firefighters are doing the best they can in cutting costs. We still have to tweak it, but I’m happy with what the firefighters proposed.”

Other suggestions offered during the meeting included looking for other vendors to host and maintain the district’s website, charging for workplace fire safety workshops and contracting dispatch services with other towns in need of communications.

The district’s 2011 budget included $29.5 million in revenue compared to $30.1 million in expenditures, while the 2010 budget included $28.1 million in revenue and $35 million in expenditures.

Trustee Martin McGill did not attend the meeting.

The next two budget meetings will take place at 5 p.m. the next two Tuesdays in the month, Oct. 11 and 18, at the district’s .

Chris October 07, 2011 at 03:52 PM
How bout the 11 they promised jobs too??? Still waiting, haven't heard nothing, were supposed to start may 31.... Now the word layoffs is mentioned... Hickey voted to hire 11, now doesn't want layoffs... Sounds like a little bullying going on...
John Paul October 07, 2011 at 08:41 PM
It looks like the board is trying to provide the same or better service for less money from the taxpayors. Sounds good to me.
J.J. October 09, 2011 at 02:08 AM
John, Is the board trying to provide the same or better service for less money or trying to buy off the taxpayers of Orland with the promise of a refund check? If the board refunds $50 or $100 or $400 to every taxpayer, do we dismiss the political wranglings of this board? Does the end justify the means? What if Hickey spends all of the fire district reserve funds in the form of refund checks to boost his election chances and the fire district is force to borrow funds to make payroll in the future? I would like to think we could have a honest, up front debate on what kind of fire protection to have and at what cost to taxpayers without the patronage hires, the $100,000 attorney bill for bogus investigations and without using the fire district as a springboard for wannabe politicians. But that's just me....maybe I am naive?
John Paul October 09, 2011 at 03:31 AM
JJ, If that's what Hickey is doing, it will backfire badly. His chances of getting elected are slim, in my opinion. He's at war with the Orland Township Democratic committeeman and he's at war with the unions. Most of the congressional district is outside of Orland, so tax refunds won't help him. In all likelyhood, he'll have to live with these decisions as a fire trustee. As far as the attorney bills for the investigation, all I can say is that if there was any indication of wrongdoing, the board had an obligation to investigate. Not all investigations result in a negative finding.
J.J. October 10, 2011 at 02:20 PM
I agree that he has a very slim chance in the election. I believe that the investigation was political, nothing more. I think most people now see that. If it wasn't, Madden would be working right now, not on a paid vacation. However, I really don't believe that the average Joe citizen cares. We are all kind of numb to this kind of politics.
Robert October 14, 2011 at 07:45 PM
BETTER?????? All I see are cuts and threats to "LAY-OFF FIREFIGHTERS" by HIckey. The Republican backed three (HICKEY, CHRIS EVOY, DR. BLAIR RHODE) on the board are in a frenzy to quickly cut services and firemen equiptment, safety uniforms, flu shot, all to mail a check to residents so they can look good for the next election. How can Hickey even think of hurting citizens and firefighters/paramedics, by mentioning "LAY-OFFS". He didn't run his election with that comment. Dr. Blair Rhode has the grandiosity to compare himself with first responders, lol. Dr. Rhode calls the Orland EMS when his patients decompensate in his posh Dr.'s office. No Mr. Rhode, you are no where near the valor of a fighfighter. The only thing that needs to be cut, besides Rhode's hair, is the politics inside our EMS at OPFD., imo. LIZ GORMAN, GET OUT OF OUR EMS.
Robert October 14, 2011 at 07:50 PM
There will be bumper stickers and yard signs to remind people of all the losers of the village election that Hickey and Evoy and Rhodes installed on our EMS (emergency medical system, here in Orland. Pictures of Hickey holding hands with Liz Gorman and Kyle Hastings and Chris Evoy, and Dr. Blair Rhode. Phone calls similar to the one of the mommy calling everyone telling them her adult son was beat up in college. I would be embarrassed to be that kid.
Robert December 04, 2011 at 04:27 AM
What tax payer and/or Orland Park Fire Dist. board member would want to worsen and cheap-a-size their own fire and emergency medical system? Chris Evoy, Dr. Blair Rhode and James Hickey. I am really glad we have probably the number one force in this state and possibly this country. Why are there those out to destroy that reputation? Politics and ignorance. Now what kind of "referendum" are you talking about Kevin? The one Dr. Blair Rhode stated he was in favor of, turning the fire dept. over to the village? We would really be in bad shape like some neighboring towns are in now, had we done that. Money especially my money, is better spent on fire, police and teachers than on lawyers on a witch hunt, or insurance companies that Liz Gorman suggests to the board.
paul cervenka September 26, 2012 at 03:37 PM
Tell us about getting fired Robert! Let me do the budget. I have it already printed out. No loss of blue uniforms or services. Lots of efficient modifications. Save over 10 million $ per year. This FD is so bloated it took only an hour to do. Really, 1/4 million for a new kitchen for house 6? Seriously! Remember voters, it's not just election time it's Firemens contract time too. So watch who they run for this fire district board. Political? It's their living/lifestye at stake. Again, you have the right by law to abolish the Taxing Fire District and have a Fire Department say, just like Downers Grove does. Run by the Mayor/village trustees and funded any way they(you) choose. Tinley bought a new ladder truck with 1/2 the $ in donations! Tinley's cost, 8 million a year. Orlands, 30 million. Wake up.

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