Barrington's union firefighters are supporting a proposal from the Barrington Countryside Fire Protection District to lease 18 firefighters from the village as a better alternative to the total separation of the two agencies now being pursued.
"Certainly we're in support of the intent of the proposal. It's a step in the right direction," local union President Eric Brouilette said. "I think the intent is there to open a good quality negotiation."
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Brouilette believes such a proposal has a good chance of avoiding any layoffs that would otherwise result from the end of the village and fire district's contractual relationship on Jan. 1.
"That certainly sounded like that was part of the intent," Brouilette said. "The district wants to keep as much experience as they can, and they certainly care about the firefighters."
But the union is maintaining its strong endorsement of the village and fire district continuing their long-running contract. Brouilette said such a consolidation of resources is the best option from both a public safety and cost-efficiency perspective.
The district, which covers a 48-square-mile area outside of Barrington, began making arrangements to end its contract with the village after village officials denied a request to hire seven more firefighter-paramedics.
Though the district had agreed to pay the full salaries of these employees, village officials say they're feeling long-term financial pressures from the pension and disability costs of a workforce much larger than the village itself needs.
The district recently received proposals from five private firefighter-paramedic firms to provide service to the jurisdiction after Jan. 1.
The district's consultant, Illinois Fire Chiefs Association Executive Director Robert Buhs, said there was some truth to public criticisms that such firms experience high turnover as they're comprised largely of new firefighters waiting to land a union job.
On Monday, the district voted on its latest proposal to the village as a way of maintaining some experience to supplement its use of one of these private firms.
The offer promises to pay all the pension, insurance and other costs for these 18 firefighters for two years.
Barrington Village Manager Jeff Lawler said village officials wouldn't comment on the offer until they'd at least seen it in writing, and possibly not until after further talks with the fire district.
The fire district's jurisdiction includes parts of Barrington Hills, Lake Barrington, South Barrington, Inverness and unincorporated Cook, Lake and McHenry counties.