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updated: 4/23/2014 6:50 PM

Buffalo Grove unhappy with firefighter legislation

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Buffalo Grove Village President Jeffrey Braiman has joined the chorus of municipal leaders opposing state legislation that could subject firefighter staffing levels to arbitration.

Braiman this week said House Bill 5485, otherwise known as the Minimum Manning Bill, would negatively impact the village budget and firefighter response times -- and even might force the village to close one of its three fire stations.

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Currently, the decision of staffing levels rests in the hands of department management. But under the bill, if a municipality or fire district and the union representing its firefighters cannot agree on staffing, the matter would be turned over to arbitration.

The arbitrator, Braiman said, "isn't an investor in our community, who will not have the expertise in firefighting and finance to make logical and appropriate decisions."

"We respect and appreciate our firefighters and paramedics," he added. "They perform valiantly and serve our public in exemplary fashion."

Braiman noted, however, that the proposed changes would not afford the village's firefighters better wages and benefits, nor would it increase their pensions. It also would not improve response times, Braiman said.

"Clearly, getting more persons into a vehicle will not get it there any faster," he said.

The bill ultimately could force the village to add firefighters at a time when it is trying to manage its workforce and constrain costs, Braiman said. Requiring one more person per fire truck per shift would cost the village as much as $1.3 million a year, he said, forcing spending cuts elsewhere or a tax increase.

Fire Chief Terry Vavra said he also does not favor the bill.

"I think Mr. Braiman made some very valid points," he said. "I don't know that this is the answer."

However, in a letter to legislators, the Mount Prospect firefighters union states that opponents of the bill "are attempting to mislead lawmakers and have stated opinions that simply are not true."

"The working conditions of a firefighter are inherently dangerous and safe staffing levels have an enormous impact on our safety, and ultimately the safety of the very citizens I have sworn to protect," the letter adds.

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