MATTOON -- The City Council is scheduled (Tuesday) tonight to consider eliminating the assistant fire chief position within the Mattoon Fire Department due to budgetary restraints.
The proposed ordinance also calls for restructuring the management of the fire department by transferring the assistant chief, currently Sean Junge, to fill a vacant shift captain position.
Regarding the budgetary restraints, the proposed ordinance states that the city approved a deficit budget for fiscal year 2018-19 and continues to make adjustments in an effort to reduce this deficit.
In addition, the proposed ordinance states that the city is in negotiations for a new contract with Mattoon Firefighters Local 691. The city is making efforts to comply with an arbitration ruling to return staffing levels to 30 firefighter bargaining members, according to the proposed ordinance. Mattoon currently has 23 firefighters, said Bart Owen, president of Mattoon Firefighters Local 691.
City Administrator Kyle Gill and fire Chief Tony Nichols could not be reached for comment Monday. Assistant Chief Junge said he has no comment at this time.
Owen said the assistant fire chief helps coordinate with other emergency response agencies during major incidents, such as communicating with the Illinois State Police during major crashes on Interstate 57.
Owen said if the assistant fire chief position is eliminated, a shift captain will need to be assigned to these coordination efforts and will then not be able to directly assist as much at the scene.
"It will affect how we do things for sure," Owen said. He added that the assistant fire chief handles administrative tasks that would need to be shifted to other city staff members if this position is eliminated.
Owen said if Junge becomes a shift captain, he would be eligible to become a bargaining member of the firefighter union. He estimated that Junge would have to take a 15 percent reduction in salary if this change occurs.
The Mattoon firefighters posted a statement on their Facebook page that says the elimination of the assistant chief position puts "the community and our department in a more compromised position" and is "another direct attack on department staffing."
The statement indirectly referred to the city's recent elimination of the Mattoon Fire Department's ambulance service. City officials have said that this service was losing money as the city dealt with a budget deficit and that this service duplicated the work of existing private ambulance providers in Mattoon.
The council is scheduled to meet at 6:30 p.m. (Tuesday) tonight in City Hall, 208 N. 19th St. Other actions that the council will consider taking include:
- Allocating a $3,000 grant from the city's 2018-19 hotel/motel tax funds in support of the Mattoon Santa Chase for hosting its 5-kilometer foot race and half marathon on Nov. 17. The Tourism Advisory Committee has recommended approving this grant.
- Declaring various personal computers and digital video systems as surplus city property and authorizing the sale or disposal of this property.
- Awarding the 2018 water treatment plant chemical bids to various bidders.
- Establishing a new section of the city code to prescribe procurement procedures when using federal grant funds.
A full agenda for the meeting and related documents are posted online at http://mattoon.illinois.gov/government/citycouncil/upcomingmeetings.
Contact Penny Weaver at (217) 238-6863. Follow her on Twitter: @PennyWeaver
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