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posted: 3/22/2014 8:01 AM

Carpentersville postpones fire department layoffs

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Carpentersville has delayed the planned layoffs of two full-time firefighters while union officials discuss cuts they can make to save those jobs, Village Manager J. Mark Rooney said Friday.

"I'm very optimistic that the firefighters union will help us find a solution to avoid the layoffs," Rooney said. This action comes after the union met with Rooney on Wednesday to discuss the pending layoffs of the firefighters who were originally going to be let go March 28. There are 32 full-time firefighters, and the two at risk of losing their jobs have the least seniority.

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Rather than work with a specific dollar amount, the union will instead make cuts from its recent contract and present the proposed savings to Rooney. The village board has final say and will vote on the new fiscal year budget April 1.

The extension gives the union time to consider what cutbacks it can take. Three years ago during contract negotiations, the union agreed to several concessions so the village would not lay off three firefighters. The concessions included reduced holiday pay, no salary increase during the first year of the contract and a reduction in overtime pay.

The union last fall agreed to another employment deal, which is what's being reviewed.

"We are actively discussing our options with our members," said Lt. Rick Nieves, president of International Association of Fire Fighters Local 4790. "We are happy to see the village extend the timeline."

Last month, Rooney announced staff cuts of the two firefighters and three other village employees to help plug a projected $429,000 deficit. Rooney said similar negotiations are also afoot with the union that represents the other three employees.

Since the announcement of the layoffs, the firefighters union has filed a grievance. Also, several firefighters and retired chief John Schuldt have attended various board and budget meetings.

In the aftermath, firefighter Chris Scholl, a Carpentersville resident, publicly questioned whether the village is really in a financial bind and created an online petition to oust Rooney over what he calls his "poor management of village affairs."

As of Friday afternoon, 114 people had signed the petition. Scholl said most of them have family members working in the village or are firefighters elsewhere.

He said 14 people are from out of state and others are from outside the area, according to information Scholl released to the Daily Herald.

Rooney said he is aware of the petition and is ignoring it.

"It does me no good to study every blog that is ever out there about me," Rooney said. "I just never made it a practice to read blogs. And I'm not going to start now."

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