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New Orland Fire majority makes changes

by Kevin Olsen
staff reporter

The new Orland Fire Protection District Board of Trustees is quickly making attempts at curbing spending and increasing transparency after taking action on a number of items at its meeting last week.

The board voted 3-2 to postpone the hiring of 11 firefighters at its meeting Wednesday last week. Newly elected board Secretary Blair Rhode and Treasurer Christopher Evoy joined board president and incumbent Jim Hickey in the hiring delay. The other holdover trustees Martin McGill and Glenn Michalek voted no.

Later in the meeting, the board unanimously approved placing Chief Bryant Krizik and Operations Deputy Chief Joe Madden on paid administrative leave not to exceed 30 days. Battalion Chief Raymond Day was named acting, interim chief. Hickey said it was a personnel matter and would not comment on the reason for the suspension.

The old board had unanimously approved the hiring of the firefighters after Chief Krizik said the additional firefighters would save the district $300,000, mostly out of overtime pay. Hickey voted along with the old board initially, but said it was a matter that should be decided by the incoming group. A special meeting is scheduled for June 7 to allow Rhode and Evoy to catch up on the discussion. Hickey said that number of firefighters hired could change based on costs.

“I agree with the two new board members that we should know for certainty whether or not the hiring of 11 firefighters will in fact result in a savings and if the costs of the hirings will all come out of the past overtime and still result in a savings of more than $300,000 as was claimed,” Hickeys said. “As president of the board, my agenda is to identify as often as possible savings for the district.”

“I can say the action was not one based on politics, though, as all five board members agreed to the motion unanimously following the executive session,” Hickey said of the vote to place Chief Krizik on leave.

The board saved $12,000 at the meeting by firing Bill Figel’s public relations agency by a 3-2 vote. McGill and Michalek voted no. Longtime Orland Park resident and former journalist Ray Hanania was hired to perform communications at a cost of $36,000 a year.

“The citizens of the Orland Fire Protection District made it clear they want a professional fire protection district, but they want change,” Hickey said. “They want accountability. They want more attention to costs. They want transparency. They want to be informed.”

Much of the meeting was aimed at improving the transparency of the district, which has been accused in recent years of overspending and high property tax rates. Hickey moved the time of board meetings from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on the third and fourth Tuesdays of the month so more residents can attend.

“My priority and the priority of the new board majority is to address the concerns as expressed by voters, to provide full transparency on all issues so the public understands all actions, and to strive to save costs whenever possible without taking away from the performance and quality of service of the Orland Fire Protection District,” Hickey said.

Hickey asked all three members of the fire commission to resign because some of them have friends and relatives on the fire district, he said. The commissioners oversee personnel policies and would be a conflict to make decisions that could impact friends or relatives, Hickey added. One of the terms was expired and the board voted to appoint John Brudnak to that position. Brudnak unsuccessfully ran for Orland Park Village Trustee this spring. He is a salesman for Central Steel & Wire in Chicago and is a past vice president of Orland School District 135.

“I think the commissioners should have no ties to the employees,” Hickey said. “I want to make sure that decisions are made for the best interests of the district. If someone has a relative on the payroll, the possibility is there that decisions might be made for the wrong reasons.”

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