During his first day on the job, Elk Grove Village's new interim fire chief was putting out fires of a different kind, addressing criticism leveled at the village over his hiring.
Village officials Friday clarified the role of interim fire chief, William "Bill" Balling, saying the $168 hourly rate the village agreed to pay him is not the wage of one man, but rather the service fee for Balling's management consultancy firm called WRB LLC.
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Balling said his job includes overseeing and managing the fire department's operations, as well as conducting a thorough operational assessment of the department's practices.
"It's a pretty dynamic role," Balling said of his interim duties. "Including myself, we will have between four and five people involved and engaged in the process. These are professionals in management and the fire service. There will be substantial hours in this project. The village is going to be protected in a fee structure."
Balling, of Arlington Heights, was Buffalo Grove's village administrator for 39 years before retiring in 2006.
Elk Grove Village hired Balling's firm shortly after the retirement of Elk Grove Fire Chief Dave Miller on July 1.
At the time, the role of acting chief was being filled by Deputy Chief Scott Miller who will continue to oversee many of the day-to-day operations of the Elk Grove Fire Department, including all fire-suppression efforts, officials said.
Balling's appointment as interim fire chief is for an indefinite period and he will not receive benefits, nor will he contribute to a pension.
In an earlier interview, Elk Grove Village Mayor Craig Johnson said Balling's position could require up to 40 hours of work a week.
"We're going to be looking at all of the systems, technologies, operations," he said. "We want to identify the best practices and next practices."
Balling has provided similar services for other municipalities. He served as interim fire chief in Lombard last year until Mike Torrence was hired as permanent chief in October. He has provided interim administrative services for Clarendon Hills, Highwood and Kildeer, and was hired to reorganize permit processing for the village of Northbrook.
Balling said he picks his team of consultants based on the needs of each contract.
"I have a lot of contacts in the business," he said.
In Elk Grove Village, his team will be developing a list of recommendations on how to improve fire services for the village board to consider.
"This is a sound department," Balling said. "The village has needs. It's not a cost-reduction study in and of itself."
Elk Grove Village is presently short a deputy fire chief and fire chief.
Balling's services could include launching a headhunting search for a new fire chief down the road, Village Manager Ray Rummel said.
"Bill's got a team of people behind him," Rummel said Friday. "We've got a great fire department. We have an opportunity to see what we can do to tweak it and make it a little bit better."