Archive for the ‘ First Responders ’ Category

A new article from the Better Government Association explores growing pressures to consolidate public safety services.

…[M]unicipal budget shortfalls are forcing a growing segment of Northern Illinois suburbs to consider what was once unthinkable: Merging basic hometown public safety operations with neighboring or regional governments, such as the county sheriff’s departments.

Skittish residents, however, are concerned these reconstituted public safety departments will be more widespread and less responsive to their local safety and emergency needs. Nonetheless, the trend is likely to extend deep into other suburban areas and rural Illinois, say public finance and municipal experts.

I’ve occasionally engaged in casual conversations about formation of a metropolitan police agency or emergency services center belonging to DeKalb, Sycamore and perhaps one or two additional surrounding communities.

Although municipal revenue free falls have generally stopped since the recession ended, yearly revenue increases are now typically small and devoured instantly by increases in expenditures for insurance, commodities and contractual raises. Nobody knows when this trend of flatlined revenues will end. Meanwhile, raising taxes is politically difficult and, in many suffering communities, would be downright cruel. The alternatives are to watch service delivery capabilities erode or to find more economical ways to deliver services.

Careful consolidation could help us realize significant economies of scale by applying a metro or regional focus to eliminate duplicate administrative functions, equipment and software purchases and so on. But we’d have a much better chance of doing it right if we start planning during a relative period of calm. In other words, if we’re going to have the conversation, let’s do it now.

“We Are Taking Edgebrook”

The following is a report from DeKalb Police of a gathering on the 800 block of Edgebrook Drive in the wee hours of Saturday, August 25.

Due to a large crowd gathering the previous night, I assigned officer Boldt to monitor the lot at 809 Edgebrook and to advise me of any large parties forming.

He advised me that there was a party at apartment 8 and the apartment was full with some people standing outside. We arrived and advised the occupant to move everyone inside and not allow any more people inside. He was warned that if a crowd gathered outside his apartment, that he would be cited. During this time other officers cleared the lot of approximately 10 cars and 30 people who did not reside at the complex.

Cars that had exited the lot were stuck in traffic from other cars wanting to enter the lot. The lot was blocked as was the intersection of Normal and Edgebrook. During the time it took to clear the road, two groups of people began to gather on opposite sides of the street where officers were directing traffic.

Officer Boldt was getting names of tenants in other apartments with loud parties. While preparing to clear officers from the scene, I heard a passerby speaking on his phone. I heard him say, “We are taking Edgebrook.” Read the rest of this entry

OK, Council, you said you’d bond out no more than $12 million but now staff is coming at you with a proposal for borrowing $14 million.

It’s not that Peace Road and the fire stations don’t need attention. They do — especially Station 2. But is this really the way to do it? Bundling the police station funding with three other projects ’cause it’s “only” $2 mil more? Because there’d not be much time to examine the fine print on the new proposals.

Let’s start with some fine print about asbestos in Station 2, a 55-year-old building. It is not mentioned in the agenda backup memo. How much of the $180,000 estimate is meant for asbestos removal/remediation? When do we get to find out?

…and street sweeping. Rockford Register Star:

The City Council Finance and Personnel Committee and City Council approved a controversial request involving ambulance service at meetings Monday night.

The committee’s aldermen voted unanimously to let city staff develop a request for proposals from the private sector for citywide ambulance response. The Rockford Fire Department provides the service, but city leaders have been discussing the possibility of outsourcing the function for the past year.

Rockford’s consultant and its Budget & Finance Advisory Committee consider the functions “potential outsourcing recommendations” but they won’t know for sure until proposals come in.

From the Chicago Tribune today:

Buffalo Grove and its firefighters have agreed to defer raises, increase employee health insurance premium contributions and establish a new two-tier wage structure that will pay new hires 10 percent less.

There’s an example of the compensation reset some of us have been saying is necessary for DeKalb. Good going, Buffalo Grove.

DeKalb Firefighters’ Step B

[Correction 7/5: Whoops! The link provided goes to Aurora, CO, not to Aurora, IL, which is IAFF Local 99. Many thanks to the reader who let me know.]

Check out p. 60 of the DeKalb firefighters’ contract with the city. It’s the appendix showing the base pay agreement for the latter half of 2010, the one labeled “4% General Increases For All Classifications”.

Step A to Step B is not part of the 4% “general” increase. For example:

Firefighter/Paramedic Step A annual salary: $54,682.78
Firefighter/Paramedic Step B annual salary: $67,332.91

This is an increase of more than 23%.

In a related development, I’m creating my own chart of firefighter/paramedic base pay salary comparisons, but have gotten stuck on Aurora, which has a breakdown into several more firefighter pay grades than other municipalities do. If a knowledgeable someone could take a gander at p. 18 and let me know which one fits best, I’d be grateful. Contact yinn@citybarbs.com.

An arbitrator awarded a 6% pay raise to Rockford firefighters.

City officials said the award will cost taxpayers an estimated $618,000 in 2011 and more than $1.2 million in 2012 when the 6.1 percent wage is in effect for a full year.

Arbitrator Robert Perkovich rejected the city’s offer of a 2 percent wage increase this year. [IAFF Local 413 president Lt. Brad] Walker called the salary hike overdue.

“There were no raises in ’09 and ’10,” he said. “We went 26 months without a general wage increase.”

Walker said the wage hike keeps the city’s firefighters in the same ballpark as other Illinois fire departments of similar size.

“We were just trying to stay close to our comparable cities,” Walker said of Aurora, Bloomington, Champaign, DeKalb, Joliet, Peoria and Springfield.

Rockford already faces a deficit of $4 million in the coming year. At least one alderman is calling for outsourcing ambulance services in response to the crisis.

Last in Line

As predicted in Sunday’s post, suddenly DEKALB’S FIRST RESPONDERS ARE #1 PRIORITY AND OMG WE MUST BUILD THE POLICE STATION RIGHT NOW, according to our city council.

It offends me deeply, because the The NUMBER ONE PRIORITY statement is a BIG LIE. The people who really have made public safety the priority are the folks who have protested new SUVs, serial land acquisitions, and ReNew DeKalb’s insatiable appetite for baubles ever since the first of the budget troubles appeared three-plus years ago.

If first responders were really the NUMBER ONE PRIORITY, Council would have insisted one or two of them be hired instead of a central purchasing person and an economic development person/company.

If public safety were really the NUMBER ONE PRIORITY, Council would have found a way to squeeze a couple more cops out of the $400,000 freed up from the debt restructuring.

They should knock it off already. The real story is probably some combination of a) the City being shamed by recent events, and b) the banker overlords requiring a new infusion of tax dollars now that the downtown project is winding down. Read the rest of this entry

A special meeting Monday of the DeKalb City Council and the Financial Advisory Committee is set to examine two Municipal Building remodeling/building options with emphases on police station space needs and improved access for people with disabilities.

The Good
One of the options presented includes a proposal to sell off city property worth $2.2 million to help finance a renovation and addition.

The Bad
We don’t know where the rest of the money will come from. Perhaps some bucks have been “freed up” by the debt restructuring. After paying some employees twice for not working and having the General Fund balance dip to $22,000 recently, it’s uncertain whether they can make a solid case for it, though. Read the rest of this entry

Fifth Ward Alderman Ron Naylor seems very proud that the FY2011 budget is down $700,000 from FY2007.

I went through those budgets and counted more than 40 positions eliminated since FY2008 — but, assuming a little hiring has been done this past fiscal year, let’s say we’re down about three dozen.

There’s been virtually nothing spent on equipment, in fact personnel account for 89% of expenditures now, according to the FY2011 budget. And with the recent exception of fuel costs, commodities have been pretty stable for a couple years.

So: $700,000 is pretty measly in this context. Why hasn’t the budget been whittled down several million? Read the rest of this entry