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posted: 8/27/2013 5:30 AM

Laid-off Barrington firefighters all to be offered jobs

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The Barrington Countryside Fire Protection District will offer jobs to all 19 firefighters to be laid off by the village of Barrington on Jan. 1 at their current union-level salaries and earned vacation time.

But these firefighters have to take advantage of their preferred status by applying before Aug. 31.

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"We know how valuable these employees are," fire district President Tom Rowan said. "We helped to train them."

What the fire district won't offer -- at least not immediately -- are the pension plans these firefighters have had as members of the Barrington Fire Department's union. The employees will start 401(k) plans instead.

The finalization of the fire district's 2014 staffing plan Monday came one week after the village of Barrington did the same.

Both agencies are preparing to end the long-running contract in which the village provided staffing for the 48-square-mile fire district just beyond its borders.

The fire district will employ an increased staff of 34, largely through private contractor Paramedic Services of Illinois. District trustees have been working with the firm to ensure that Barrington's laid-off firefighters can be hired at their current salaries.

Yet to come is the division of the equipment the agencies co-own, as well as determination of the exact nature of their cooperation after Jan. 1.

Fire district trustees are skeptical of the automatic-aid agreement Barrington is proposing that would ask both agencies to take primary responsibility for calls closest to their respective stations, regardless of which jurisdiction they're actually in.

Fire district trustees say they want to be assured they're getting roughly as much help as they're giving.

Barrington village officials say firefighters based in the village have responded to calls in the district about 2.5 times as often as the reverse over the last four years.

But fire district Trustee Tom Long said the staffing changes to be implemented on Jan. 1 make any such historical data irrelevant.

While the fire district's stations in Barrington Hills and Lake Barrington are currently staffed by three people each, in 2014 they each will have a full crew of five or six at all times, Long said.

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