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posted: 11/20/2013 5:30 AM

Carpentersville resolving issues with fire union

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Carpentersville and the union that represents its 32 full-time firefighters are in the midst of resolving issues that came up after both sides signed off on a three-year contract, officials confirmed Tuesday.

At the same time, village officials reiterated that the recent staffing changes they implemented within the fire department do not jeopardize residents' safety.

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"I'm totally confident in the ability of our safety people to protect the village of Carpentersville," Village President Ed Ritter said Tuesday night at the end of a board meeting. "Our training, our efficiency, our improved equipment all make me very confident. I would not put the citizens at risk just to save a dollar."

Authorities declined to get into the details of what issues are being discussed, but Village Manager J. Mark Rooney indicated that the village's change to fire department staffing was one of them.

"We are in active conversations with the union to possibly come to some resolutions of some of the issues that they've had with our staffing model," Rooney said.

Rick Nieves, president of International Association of Fire Fighters Carpentersville Local 4790, declined to detail what the parties are attempting to hash out.

"We are collaboratively making efforts to find solutions that are mutually beneficial," Nieves said.

Nieves has previously said he's concerned as few as eight firefighters may be staffing the village's three fire stations, down from the previous minimum of 11 or 12.

As well, Station No. 1 is the only one that can respond to an emergency with both an ambulance and a fire engine, while the other two stations will send one or the other. Previously, each of the village's three stations could dispatch both an engine and an ambulance.

As a result, Carpentersville will likely rely more on the East Dundee, West Dundee and Rutland Dundee fire protection districts to make up for the difference in the staffing and apparatus changes, Nieves said.

Tuesday night, two people -- firefighter Chris Scholl and resident Stacy Klodz, whose mother is a firefighter -- spoke out against the new scheduling.

"The fire department needs to have five (firefighters) in each station," Scholl said. "The board's new staffing model means that greater than 50 percent of all ambulance requests on the east side of the village -- one in two -- have a response time greater than four minutes and brain death starts occurring after four minutes without oxygen."

Since the staffing changes took place Oct. 19, Carpentersville responded to 224 calls and the average response time was four minutes and six seconds, Public Safety Director Al Popp said.

"They have been continuing to do an extraordinary job," Popp said of the firefighters.

Officials have said the full-time firefighters are upset over the loss of overtime opportunities.

They also said the changes allow them to staff according to daily demands and save $300,000 in overtime expenses.

But Klodz says that's just an excuse officials are using to justify the scheduling changes.

"These people aren't money-grubbing," Klodz said of the firefighters.

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