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updated: 5/15/2014 2:16 PM

Mt. Prospect shouldn't fret over firefighter bill, union leader says

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Controversial state legislation that would make staffing levels for fire departments subject to arbitration should have no impact on Mount Prospect, the president of Mount Prospect Firefighters Local 4119 told the village board this week.

The "minimum manning bill" would add staffing levels to the list of items -- along with wages, hours and working conditions -- subject to arbitration in the event that the village and firefighters could not agree on a contract.

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Many suburban communities are outspoken opponents of the proposal, saying it would take decision making away from local officials intimately familiar with their communities' needs and place it instead in the hands of an outside arbiter. They also say it could cost municipalities millions to pay for extra staff that officials don't believe are needed.

But firefighter union President Dale Steward told village trustees this week those concerns are overblown. The proposal, he said, simply clarifies the intent of a 28-year law giving first responders input into the levels of safe staffing.

"Your lobbyists in Springfield have done a dubiously admirable job of juking the media on this issue," he added. "And they are doing the same thing to you."

Mayor Arlene Juracek said municipalities are concerned about the loss of local control.

"We understand that there are safety concerns," she added.

The minimum manning bill, HB 5485, is pending in the state legislature.

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