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updated: 4/29/2011 9:35 AM

Carol Stream firefighters getting raises

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Carol Stream firefighters will receive a slight pay raise and more paid time off under a new three-year contract agreement.

Members of Carol Stream Firefighters Union Local 3192 worked without a contract for almost year, after a previous five-year pact expired.

The new deal is retroactive and expires at the end of May 2013.

The deal comes as the fire protection district tries to turn the corner on financial difficulty from last year, when an ambulance fee was instituted to help cover a $450,000 budget deficit.

The agreement, which affects 46 firefighters and lieutenants, calls for a pay freeze in the first year and then 2.5 percent increases in both the second and third years.

Also, union members will receive what is essentially an extra paid day off. Currently, they receive 8.75 such days per year. That move is expected to cost the district a maximum of $36,400 a year.

But Fire Chief Rick Kolomay said that would be offset by moving a training officer currently on a 40-hour week schedule to shift duty. That could reduce at least $36,000 of overtime each year, he said.

The agreement also includes the creation of a "relief lieutenant" position, and promotion of two current firefighters to the lieutenant rank, in an effort to further reduce overtime.

Kolomay said the agreement took longer to put together because of the district's budgetary issues, but thinks negotiations ended up working for both sides.

"The union was very receptive to seeing the district exist in a solid financial manner," Kolomay said. "They won. We won. I think that was a plus for the citizens."

The union approved the deal with 91 percent of members voting for it, according to Lt. Rick Bonk, the union president.

The fire district board of trustees voted 4-1 for the contract. The lone vote against it, Trustee Jim Panopoulos, said he thought the raises were too high. He said the last contract included hefty pay raises, which put Carol Stream near the top of comparable districts.

"I think we gave a lot and we didn't get that much in return," Panopoulos said. "The citizens want us as board members to hold the line on expenses. This is very hard to swallow."

Bonk said in the time since the last contract was signed, the district had lagged behind salary levels of similar districts. Carol Stream is catching up with the new raises, he said.

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