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9-1-1 pact hits stumbling blocks

Coal City, Morris Fire raise new concerns

Published: Friday, April 6, 2012 5:43 p.m. CST • Updated: Tuesday, April 10, 2012 5:10 p.m. CST

The issues between the Grundy County Board and 9-1-1 Committee regarding a dispatch agreement may be settled, but some new, unexpected concerns from other participating agencies are causing more delays.

A regular meeting of the Grundy County 9-1-1 Executive Committee was held Thursday, during which the committee received an update on the new center and discussed the Morris Fire Protection District’s, village of Coal City’s and village of Minooka’s concerns with the proposed intergovernmental agreement for dispatch services.

The committee is an arm of the Grundy County Emergency Telephone System Board (ETSB), which is the governing body over the dispatch system.

Currently the center is operating, but the dispatchers are still working as separate entities in the center. Morris’ dispatchers are still Morris employees and Grundy dispatchers the sheriff’s employees. With the new agreement, which is supposed to begin May 1, the ETSB and all of the county’s participating agencies would have an agreement for dispatch services from the dispatchers as one entity of the ETSB.

The first hold up on an agreement was with the county, over Sheriff’s Law Enforcement Personnel (SLEP) benefits. The county wanted all the dispatchers, once unified, to receive Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund (IMRF) benefits, which is what the Morris dispatchers currently receive. The Grundy dispatchers wanted to keep their SLEP benefits.

They compromised and all county dispatchers employed prior to July 1, 2000, are to continue to receive SLEP. The rest and all new comers will receive IMRF.

With this change in the agreement, the goal was to get all of the agencies signed on to a pact that otherwise remained unchanged. The majority of the other parties had already signed on prior to the county objecting, but now have to vote again.

But now the approvals are not coming so easily. Both Minooka’s and Coal City’s village boards tabled the agreement at their recent meetings, and Morris Fire has not signed on either.

Dan Duffy, Minooka village administrator, said his board didn’t move forward with it because Coal City didn’t.

“If they don’t pass it, it’s an instant $50,000 hit,” Duffy said.

“If Coal City passes theirs, we’ll pass ours,” he said.

The concern for Minooka, and one for Morris Fire, is the fear Coal City won’t participate.

The village recently announced its intention to do a feasibility study on using sheriff’s police for law enforcement services rather than having its own police department. If it chooses to go forward with dissolving its police force, the concern is what does that mean for its $50,000 portion of the agreement?

“We can’t predict that is even going to happen, it’s a feasibility study,” Sheriff Terry Marketti said.

Coal City Administrator Matt Fritz said the only reason his board didn’t vote on the agreement is because the village president wants representation on the ETSB . Right now only Coal City Fire has a representative and, if the village has to pay $50,000, it should have a vote, said Fritz.

The Coal City Village Board doesn’t have a problem with the agreement, he said.

Dave Bonomo, president of the Morris Fire Board, asked if the other agencies would have to pick up the $50,000 if Coal City pulls out. Marketti said Coal City could have to pay for it anyway if they signed on, but he didn’t know and whatever happens has to be voted on by the committee.

“Those things come up and we have to deal with it . . . it wouldn’t make sense to (make the agencies pay the $50,000) and we (the committee) would have to accept that and I know I wouldn’t accept it,” Marketti said.

Bonomo said the fire district feels the county and the city of Morris should have to be responsible for any shortfall if the other agencies have to be.

Grundy County and Morris are taking the bulk of the cost to allow for the other agencies to adjust to the new budget item. Morris and the county have always paid for dispatch costs and are prepared for it. The numbers per agency will change after three years. But the agreement states that Grundy and Morris will not pay for any shortfalls in the agreement, but they are part of any surplus.

MORRIS FIRE

Bonomo and Assistant Fire Chief Tracey Steffes shared several concerns their board had with the proposal including that there was no formula for how the costs will be divided in the future, and that the agreement requires all equipment be returned to ETSB if they leave the 9-1-1 center.

They would like a date in the contract stating equipment given to such agency after a certain date would have to be returned, Bonomo said.

Morris Fire’s largest concern, however, was that the agreement does not include any budget protection. The fire district would like a limit on how much an agency’s contribution can be increased, such as 3 percent or the rate of inflation, Bonomo said. If there were a 10 percent overrun, Morris fire’s contribution could double.

“Fiscally (the fire) board takes a conservative approach. We’ve never had debt, never taken a loan, we’ve paid everything in cash . . . our tax levy is at it’s max, there are no more funds available to us. The only alternative (if they needed more money for dispatch services) is to go for a referendum and we have no desire to do that,” he said.

“We’re looking for a more predictable outcome,” Bonomo continued.

Marketti said with so many unknowns like a new building and agreement, and getting ready to negotiate with the union for a new contract, he would not suggest putting a limit. Duffy agreed, saying that if the agreement states there is room to increase their budget by 3 percent — or any percentage — that is out there for parties to know for negotiations.

Marketti expressed frustration that Morris Fire approved the agreement last time, before the county objected, stressing that nothing has changed other than SLEP. He asked if, in union negotiations, the only way to settle is to go to 3.5 percent, would Morris Fire say no and end up paying more to go to through lawyers to fight the union?

“Where are you going to go?” asked Harold Holsinger, Coal City Fire chief, of Morris Fire. He said that getting dispatch services from Wescom would be $50,000 to $60,000, instead of Morris Fire’s $27,210.90 listed in the proposal.

Steffes said the district is aware it couldn’t get dispatch services anywhere else cheaper, but the concern is if the cost goes up because of a shortfall and the district’s budget isn’t prepared for it.

Bonomo said he didn’t know if his trustees would sign on without some changes.

“I think it’s reasonable to put a cap in,” he said.

Fritz suggested Morris fire come up with an amendment to bring back to the committee just like the county did. An amendment will have to go back to all of the boards that have already voted on it, including Morris and the county, and Marketti said he was worried about getting it through the Grundy County Board again.

“I’m either signing on or getting off. I can’t wait three more months to proceed with what I’ve got going on,” said Marketti, referring to having to negotiate with the union, which includes dispatchers, and not being able to do so without an agreement.

Bonomo asked if Marketti was against including a cap.

Marketti said he was only one person (with a vote) and that it would be hard to put a budget cap in when this is the first time the center and the combined dispatchers are up and running.

The Morris Fire Protection and Ambulance District has called a special meeting for 8 a.m. Thursday, April 12, at Station 2 on Ashton Road.

It was also said during the meeting that the ETSB is in talks with Seneca to provide it dispatch services.

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