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Article posted: 6/29/2013 8:00 AM

Barrington asks fire district to offer hiring bonus

By Eric Peterson

Barrington officials have gone beyond their original request that the Barrington Countryside Fire Protection District hire the village's laid-off firefighters later this year -- suggesting the district offer them substantial signing bonuses as well.

The suggestion was made in a June 27 letter from Barrington Village President Karen Darch to fire district President Tom Rowan.

The letter also urges the district's approval of an automatic-aid agreement that would have both agencies respond to calls closer to their respective stations.

Rowan said his board hasn't yet had the opportunity to digest the letter but would respond to the village has soon as it has. The fire district board is meeting Monday to discuss candidates for the position of interim administrator.

Though Darch's letter anticipates a meeting between her and Rowan during the week of July 8, it argues that the district's request to lease 18 of the village's firefighters for two years creates a risky financial liability for the village if any of the employees filed for disability during that period.

Rowan has said the district wants to both save the jobs and retain the expertise of the firefighters the village would lay off when the two agencies' contractual agreement ends on Jan. 1.

These experienced firefighters, familiar with the area, would work alongside others hired from a private firm to bring the district's total number up to approximately 33.

But the district cannot immediately offer such benefits as pension contributions to the laid-off firefighters already earning them, Rowan said. The proposal to lease the firefighters for two years was seen as a way of buying time while another arrangement is found, perhaps a tax-hike referendum to fund such benefits.

The village has never specified exactly how many firefighters it would need to lay off, but fire district officials have said their intention is to see that none lose their jobs.

Barrington trustees will hear a report from a consultant on July 15 recommending a restructuring of their fire department in 2014.

The fire district covers a 48-square-mile area outside the village that includes portions of Barrington Hills, Lake Barrington, South Barrington and Inverness and unincorporated Cook, Lake and McHenry counties.

The district has always received its fire protection and paramedic services by contract from Barrington but began taking steps to end that contract after village officials denied requests for additional firefighters and equipment.

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