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Calumet Park readies for privatized fire-protection services

November 23, 2018

CALUMET PARK, Ill. (AP) — Calumet Park officials have hired a private firm to provide fire and ambulance services to spare a tight budget, in a move the village attorney says could become the norm in Chicago’s south suburbs.

The (Tinley Park) Daily Southtown reports the village board approved a separation agreement this month with its firefighters union and a five-year contract with Kurtz Ambulance Service for fire protection and ambulance services.

“It’s going to cause a chain reaction in the south suburbs with the communities that just can’t afford to pay the high salaries, the overtime and the equipment,” said Village Attorney Burt Odelson, noting that he was in discussions with three other south suburban communities about outsourcing their fire departments.

Odelson, who previously engineered privatization in North Riverside that state labor regulators overturned, estimated savings at $500,000 annually.

Kurtz takes over Dec. 1. It will supply 12 full-time staff members who are firefighters and paramedics in four-person shifts. The village currently has 30 part-time firefighters. Four current village firefighters will join the Kurtz staff.

Calumet Park will pay $825,000 in the first year. It increases gradually each year to top out at $925,000.

Mayor Ronald Denson said he never questioned the village department’s quality. But he says with dwindling revenue sources, “We have to make some changes if we’re going to survive.”

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