Fox River fire district chief resigns amid turmoil

Fox River & Countryside Fire/Rescue District trustees were poised to bring on two new board members Thursday to help the district deal with some of the biggest changes its leadership has ever contemplated. Instead, trustees found themselves short one more leader.

Trustees accepted the resignation of Carl DeLeo, the district's chief of operations and de facto chief. It was actually the third time DeLeo quit, according to Ken Shepro, the attorney for the fire district.

"This time, trustees decided that after three times they should accept his offer," Shepro said.

Trustees are expected to announced an interim chief possibly as soon as Friday. Kristin LeBlanc is the president of the Fox Mill Homeowner's Association, which is served by the fire district. LeBlanc was part of a group of dozens of district residents who put trustees on notice this week that they didn't like DeLeo's plans to convert the full-time staff into part-timers in an effort to save money and at least stall the need to ask residents for a tax increase.

The district has been running on a shoestring budget for many months. The district had only about $48,000 in reserves coming into the fiscal year. That total was bolstered by the sale of some rental property.

But the one-time boost won't be enough to sustain operations in the long term. Finances are so perilous that trustees have even contemplated what would happen if the district was forced to dissolve.

In the midst of addressing such scenarios, two of the district's five-member board of trustees quit. That included former President Jim Gaffney, who then showed up at a subsequent trustee meeting to express his own major concerns about using primarily part-time staff on fire engines and ambulances.

The remaining three trustees interviewed replacements for Gaffney and Terry Jeglum, who was the other trustee who resigned, Thursday night. The interviews occurred in closed session. It appeared there were no more than three people interested in the trustee positions.

The board has not yet announced when it expects to name the new trustees and vote them onto the board.

Asked about DeLeo's resignation, LeBlanc said it was "the best thing that could have happened" to the district. LeBlanc said she plans on meeting with the district's new president, Bob Handley, on Friday to discuss how her concerned citizens group can get more involved with the district and help assess the impact of switching to part-time staffing.

"That fire district is important to those of us who live out here," LeBlanc said. "I don't want to see it crippled."

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