Editor's Note: The village will layoff 19 firefighters/paramedics. An earlier version listed the incorrect number.
Some Barrington firefighters learned Monday that they will lose their jobs come Jan. 1 when the village cuts 19 positions when it reorganizes the fire department.
Barrington’s Board of Trustees unanimously voted to staff the Barrington Fire Department with 16 firefighters/paramedics and two command officers/paramedics when it splits from the Barrington Countryside Fire Protection District.
The district chose not to renew an intergovernmental agreement with Barrington set to expire on Jan. 1 because the village did not want to hire additional firefighters citing pension costs. BCFPD needs to hire more staff to service its area so it will form its own department. Barrington will staff one fire station, on the east side of town, with a total of 18 employees.
Barrington Fire Department’s coverage area will be cut by 90 percent resulting in a reduction in call volume, said Bill Balling, of WRB, LLC of Arlington Heights. He was hired as a consultant to create a study _ at a cost of $79,000 _ looking into the issue of the split, including staffing.
A smaller coverage area coupled with enhanced auto aid agreements with neighboring communities, like Lake Zurich and BCFPD, means the department could operate with 18 employees, he said.
Chief John Arie was asked whether he is comfortable with the recommended staffing levels.
“It will be a challenge for us, but I believe it will be doable. The answer is yes,” the chief said.
Barrington Fire would have to approach the district to negotiate an auto aid agreement. The village also plans to provide auto aid to the district for areas close to its Barrington’s boundaries. Balling said the idea is for the village and the district to continue their partnership but operate as separate entities.
It will cost the village more to have an enhanced model of 18 employees versus a 16 personnel model that Balling also studied. He found Barrington firefighters will be able to improve response times and provide better service with the enhanced model, Balling said.
Trustees agreed with Balling’s recommendation, although Trustee Robert Windon raised concerns about the staffing level and how much overtime the village would have to pay to make sure there is enough coverage on all shifts. He wants to see more data on overtime estimations.
Jim Goodwin, a 19-year veteran of the fire department, was emotional when he spoke to the board during public comment.
“I understand the split is going to happen, it is pretty obvious,” he said. “We would like you to slow the train down. Everything has happened so fast. The staffing is not going to work.”
“I’m going to lose my job, I just found out tonight….but, don’t handicap the guys who will still be there,” Goodwin said.
One firefighter wanted the board to look at the number of people who will staff the fire department. He said it is just not safe.
If a resident has a full cardiac arrest, five firefighters need to respond, he said. Under the village’s plan, all the firefighters in the department on a given shift would respond, leaving the fire station unmanned.
Other departments would have to respond, taking between 12 to 20 minutes, he said.
Full cardiac arrest can cause brain damage in four to six minutes, he said.
“If it happens to you, hold your breath for four to six minutes for us or anyone else to arrive,” he said. “That is what your residents are facing. You need to think long and hard.”
Trustees, however, were not swayed by the comments and relied instead on Balling’s recommendation.
“The new staffing plan costs a little more than minimal staffing, but that will be money well spent if it provides additional services and increases public safety in Barrington,” Village President Karen Darch said in a prepared statement. “However, in the long term, we are removing a major burden from taxpayers_ the burden of paying skyrocketing pension and disability payments for employees that have served outside our community.”