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Sparks fly over pending fire department legislation in Springfield

Oak Lawn Mayor Sandra Bury’s call for a resolution to oppose House Bill 5485 that deals with fire department personnel ignited debate during the village board meeting Tuesday night.

Bury said the bill, which passed through the House by a 63-44 margin on April 3, will place a burden on the budgets of cities and villages throughout the state regarding fire departments.

The mayor is concerned that the bill, which she said will be brought up for a Senate vote in June, will take the decision-making process from local governments regarding manning fire engines and other fire department personnel matters. Those decisions would be made through arbitration.{{more}}

The bill has no immediate impact on Oak Lawn, which has minimum manning for firefighters written into the union contract.

Most of the trustees said they understood Bury’s concerns. However, the majority said that further discussion was necessary.

ÒWe need to vet this fully,” said Trustee Alex Olejniczak (2nd). ÒWe need to talk to everyone to get their input and have a discussion.”

Bury agreed that the issue is complicated but said she wants to make sure that people understand all the aspects of the bill. She planned to go to Springfield this past Wednesday to talk to legislators.

Trustee Bob Streit (3rd) said he could not understand why a resolution is necessary.

ÒWe are asked to oppose a law that has no effect on Oak Lawn,” said Streit, who said he is for the currently agreement with the firefighters union.

This was followed with a heated exchange by Bury and Streit. Bury said that in 2011, Streit agreed with measures to change the firefighters contract, which he denied.

ÒYou had a chance to make suggestions but you did not,” said Bury.

Streit fired back, stating sarcastically that Bury Òmade great suggestions. You just want to cut, cut, cut.”

The Oak Lawn Professional Firefighters Association, Local 3405 filed an unfair labor practice against the village regarding the bargaining process with the union on the issue of minimum manning. The Illinois Relations Board ruled against the village in 2011. Minimum manning with binding arbitration are part of that agreement.

Bury responded to some of the questions in a prepared video shown during the meeting. The mayor said in the video that her opposition to the bill is not anti-union. She added that she applauds the efforts of the village’s firefighters.

ÒWe depend on our fire chief, our police chief to inform us of what their needs are,” said Bury. ÒWe think that’s the right way. Taking these decisions to an arbitrator, who has nothing to do with Oak Lawn and does not live in Oak Lawn, is not necessary. We think it is wrong.”

Village Manager Larry Deetjen weighed in on the matter, stating the village has Òto make some tough decisions. I wish I could say we don’t have to worry about it but we do.”

Deetjen added that to do nothing will result in further population decline with businesses moving to Indiana and the sun belt.

The board meeting was briefly delayed because a hearing was held before with officials from Commonwealth Edison. Several residents complained about power outages even when there was no rainstorms occurring.

One ComEd official said that sometimes the outages may occur because of the strain put on the system from previous storms. The hearing was arranged in response to Olejniczak’s call for ComEd to address frequent power outages that occur in the village, especially in his 2nd District.

ComEd officials listened to complaints of residents and said they would respond to their concerns. Olejniczak and Trustee Mike Carberry (6th) reminded residents that if they are dealing with outages to call ComEd and provide them with addresses.

Olejniczak added that calls and complaints can be forwarded to the Illinois Commerce Commission and ComEd. If outages continue to occur, they can call their respective trustees, said Oljejniczak, who would in turn get back to ComEd and the ICC.

ComEd officials stated at the hearing that improvements would be occurring this year. Olejniczak said that is a good start and it was agreed that another meeting will take place at a later date to review the progress.

In other news, figure skater Jordan Moeller was recognized for not only winning several figure skating championships, but for also raising over $10,000 during a benefit held Saturday at the Southwest Ice Arena in Crestwood to assist children with cancer.

Moeller, a student at Richards High School, received a proclamation award from Bury and Trustee Terry Vorderer (4th). Moeller lives in Vorderer’s district. A video of a recent winning ice skating performance by Moeller was shown at the meeting.

Vorderer and Bury wished Moeller continued success as he attempts to make the 2018 U.S. Winter Olympics in the figure skating competition.

Oak Lawn residents Rosario and Lindsay Caprio were honored for calling 911 when they saw three suspicious individuals approaching a home in the area. The three men were subsequently arrested and charged.

A request to approve the annual ÒSully Shuffle” 5K race and one-mile walk in September was approved by the board. The race and walk and begins near Oak Lawn Community High School and has raised over $115,00 for Parkinson’s disease research.

The race and run is held in honor of Skip Sullivan, the longtime coach at Oak Lawn High School, who has Parkinson’s disease.

Near the conclusion of the meeting, Bury held up a poster that encourages shopping in Oak Lawn. Bury received the poster earlier that day during an Oak Lawn Chamber of Commerce luncheon.

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