Fire contract set for approval; no layoffs expected

By JAMES MITCHELL
Sunday Times Newspapers

LINCOLN PARK — A vote is expected tomorrow by city council to approve a contract between the city and firefighters’ union that will, for now, prevent any further layoffs in the department.

Mayor Patricia Diaz Krause said that union approval had been expected Friday to set the stage for Monday’s council meeting.

“Both sides have worked out something palatable to both,” Krause said. “The fire guys are happy with it, and our attorney wouldn’t have presented something that wasn’t in the best interest of the city.”

A final agreement had been delayed several times in recent months, and it had been expected that at least three department positions would be eliminated. Attempts to balance the city’s struggling budget and address an estimated $3 million deficit indicated that up to five positions would be lost.

Fire officials argued that two positions had already been vacated through resignation and retirement. Fire Chief Liam Carroll awaited the negotiations with concern about staffing the department with fewer firefighters.

“It doesn’t look like there’ll be layoffs,” Carroll said.

The department and city continue to apply for staffing grants and explore potential savings through cooperative agreements with neighboring departments.

“We’re open to virtually anything right now,” Carroll said. “We’ve got a guy who’s an active grant writer, and that’s one of the main sources (of funding).”

Specifics of the expected contract remained confidential pending final votes. Krause said the approved contract could open doors to resolving other employee negotiations as the city continues to address budget issues and maintain a debt-elimination plan.

“I don’t want to see anybody laid off,” Krause said. “This should get everything moving along for everybody.”

(James Mitchell can be reached at jmitchell@bewickpublications.com.)