I appreciate your concern at this challenging time for North Riverside. Let me assure you that every decision we have made thus far has been the result of strategically thought out assessment and deliberation. We have considered every angle. I am prepared to answer any and all questions you and other citizens may have in order to help you feel more comfortable with the necessary transition.
First of all, our community already knows PSI very well. For the past 28 years, they have provided privatized ambulance and emergency response services to local residents and businesses, saving lives and working side-by-side with the Village’s firefighters.
PSI, whose paramedics are certified as firefighters as well, plans to offer employment to all 16 of the Village’s current firefighters. Firefighters will maintain their current base salaries, earned pension benefits, health insurance and a new 401(k) plan through PSI. All will get their earned pensions to date. The savings to the Village will come in the form of no future pension obligations and significant reductions in overtime.
The concern that PSI firefighters will somehow be sub-par is a a “scare tactic”, as well as a direct hit on the current firefighters, as again, all will be offered to stay on in North Riverside. As new firefighters/paramedics are needed, all PSI employees are trained through exactly the same programs, at the same fire academies, and pass the same state standards as all other licensed firefighters in Illinois.
If some current firefighters decide not to stay with North Riverside, PSI has experienced firefighters and paramedics on staff who will move to North Riverside, providing comparable and experienced protective services
Some have expressed concern that the North Riverside fire department will become a revolving door if privatized, but that isn’t going to happen. Lincolnwood Fire Department, which PSI has run for 25 years, has terrific longevity, with the average length of service for its 10 officers at 23.8 years on the job, and more than 15 years on average for its firefighters.
North Riverside firefighters put their lives on the line to protect our community and deserve a good wage. But, our firefighters make over $200,000 with salary, overtime and benefits, and our Lieutenants make even more. This is simply no longer sustainable for North Riverside and many other communities. North Riverside firefighter salaries are higher than those of many other firefighters -- more than Orland Park Fire Protection District employees earn, who services cover over 75,000 residents..
As your elected Mayor, I will always put residents’ and businesses’ needs first. I can’t in good conscience continue to kick this problem down the road. Tough issues require thoughtful and bold action, and privatization is an excellent solution in this instance.
If you would like to come in and discuss this further, you know my door is always open. Over the past year or so, I have made some decisions that were questioned but have, in fact, turned out to be very positive for the Village. I hope you again give me a chance to deliver on your behalf.