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Local

Fox River fire district goes partially part time, eyes referendum

ST. CHARLES TOWNSHIP – The Fox River and Countryside Fire/Rescue District Board voted recently to have some firefighters work part time and some remain full time. Board President Robert Handley said nine of the 24 firefighters will work part time, and 15 will be full time through the contract with Public Safety Services Inc.

“We decided to transition it … to less guys over a period of time,” Handley said. “It’s what our captains were comfortable with at this point.”

After Fire Chief Carl DeLeo resigned recently, two captains are handling the chief’s responsibilities until a new chief can be hired, Handley said.

Part time means 30 hours a week instead of 40 for the full-time firefighters, Handley said. The board moved to a part-time model to save money, officials said.

Handley said the rough estimate of savings is $60,000 to $70,000. 

“We are still meeting with our accountant to be more exact,” Handley said. “There are some variables we are not sure of.”

Handley said the district has to be able to set money aside to pay for equipment that needs to be replaced. Handley said the district likely will ask voters for a tax increase in April 2017.

“We’ll see how that floats with the residents,” Handley said. “We want to see how we shake out financially.”

At its January meeting, about 60 people packed the fire district’s board meeting to protest the part-time plan. Some criticized the board for not trying again on the primary ballot. A previous referendum request in April 2015 failed.

“They were yelling at us for not putting it on the ballot, but that was after they [voters] told us, 3-1, they did not want to pay any more,” Handley said, of the previously failed referendum.

Two firefighters left when officials announced the move to have nine firefighters be part time, Handley said. 

“We lose guys all the time, because our pay is not where everyone else’s pay is,” Handley said “They work for us at $45,000 [a year], when they can go to St. Charles and make $75,000 to $80,000.”

Handley said most firefighters were happy to hear not all were going to go part time.

“I’m cautiously optimistic, but I think we are going to be OK,” Handley said. “We’ve got a great group of guys who are loyal and committed. I just wish we could pay them more.”

The board also accepted the appointments of Carl Herout and Tom Mullenhauer to fill the board vacancies left by former district President Jim Gaffney and Trustee Terry Jeglum.

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