As the Village of Oak Lawn and Oak Lawn Firefighters continue to battle in court over issues such as “minimum manning”, negotiations have reportedly not moved either side from their position and Village Manager Larry Deetjen has reportedly told Trustees that other villages facing “minimum manning” mandates in their contract have chosen to disband their fire departments and privatize the services.
Deetjen, who masterminded the outsourcing of Oak Lawn’s union 911 dispatchers to a private company has threatened similar action in the past with regard to firefighting services or paramedic services.
According to one source close to the village’s negotiations, Deetjen recently told Trustees that a community in California that had reached an impasse over the minimum manning issue, “voted to disband its department in its entirety and contract the service.”
There was no indication given which community was referenced, but last year the City of San Bernardino’s City Council voted 4-3 to outsource its fire services as part of a bankruptcy plan. Fire services were outsourced to another governmental agency, San Bernardino County.
There would be no comparable service available from Cook County, for Oak Lawn to outsource to. The closest regional fire service would be the North Palos Fire Protection District, which serves Palos Hills, Worth, Hickory Hills, and parts of the nearby Cook County Forest Preserve. Joining a fire protection district would add another taxing body to Oak Lawn’s property tax bills.
Another potential option would be a private company contracted to provide fire services. Communities have shied away from this option due to legal issues surrounding Mutual Aid agreements between municipalities. Many neighboring communities enter into formal agreements to provide emergency services to one another during times of increased demand. Private service providers may not be subject to these agreements.
As Village Manager, Deetjen was a driving force behind the move to outsource Oak Lawn’s 911 dispatching services to a private company, Norcomm Public Safety Communications, Inc, in 2013. Since that time, Deetjen has made references to transitioning other municipal services to private or regional organizations. Norcomm, which recently donated $1,000 to Mayor Sandra Bury, is part of a family of companies including Superior Ambulance Service.
No public discussion has been had about this issue and no resolution of the “minimum manning” negotiations is expected until 2017. The Mayor and three Trustees aligned with the Mayor face re-election in April of 2017.