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Crowd criticizes part-time staffing model for Fox River Fire District

ST. CHARLES TOWNSHIP – About 60 people packed the Fox River and Countryside Fire Protection District meeting Monday to state their concerns with a staffing plan they said would result in fewer full time firefighters and possibly longer response times.

So many people came to the meeting at Station 2 in St. Charles Township, officials moved it to the apparatus bay.

Paul Ross, formerly a captain on the department, chastised the board for considering such a plan.

“As I began to see the shortcomings in his [Fire Chief Carl DeLeo] proposed plan, I offered suggestions to try to mitigate the concerns that I, and other officers, had, as well as serious safety issues with regards to potential staffing and future response capabilities,” Ross said. 

Ross said firefighters were concerned about losing medical coverage, sick and vacation days, retirement benefits and seniority.

“Make no mistake, you are about to lay off 18-plus employees who have families to support,” Ross said. 

Ross said during his last several years with the district, his duties included hiring all part-time staff to supplement the full-time members.

“The department has a 75 percent turnover rate for part time staff and today, after employing 50-plus part-time members, we have nine that are still with the department,” Ross said.

District resident Julie Riffle of Campton Hills criticized the board for suggesting to pay firefighters “less than someone working at McDonald’s.”

Board President Bob Handley said the part-time staffing model was necessary because the district had to cut costs by $200,000 to $300,000. Handley said the staffing model proposed for the Fox River district is the same one used by Pingree Grove, McHenry, Evergreen Park and McHenry.

“This model is not going to leave the distrcit any less safe,” Handley said.

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