Glenview Fire Department Cuts Some Night Ambulance Service
A cost-cutting measure implemented to ease budget concerns while the village and union firefighters are locked in contract negotiations.
As the deadlock continues between village officials and Glenview firefighters over contract negotiations, both sides are trying to cut costs.
Fire Chief Wayne Globerger offered up one option to curb expenses -- cutting one ambulance at night, which leaves two on the road.
“You have to find new ways of doing business and being as efficient as you possibly can,” said Globerger.
After analyzing the roughly 7,000 calls that come in each year, Globerger found that calls drop off significantly at night. About 68 percent of calls come in during the day shift, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., versus the roughly 31 percent that come in during the night shift, from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m.
In early January, Globerger recommended to village officials that one of the three ambulances sit out during the night shift, which would save money otherwise spent on overtime hours for a crew that’s already short three men lost this year through attrition.
The plan was put into effect Jan. 20. Mike Carnes, president of Local 4186, Glenview Professional Firefighters Association, said there haven’t been any issues yet, but there will be eventually.
“It’s a matter of time before it’s going to catch up with you,” said Carnes.
Typically, five firefighters are off work at any given day from a roster of 26. That brings the total number of firefighters to 21 per shift, a number too low for one work day, Carnes said. The recommended number is 22 firefighters per shift, according to Globerger. Until recently, instead of hiring another full-time position, the department was calling back at least one firefighter for overtime, costing about $1,100 per day.
Now, with one ambulance out of commission, the department will not have to spend on overtime because they won’t have a need to staff that ambulance, which requires a two-man team.
Adding that up, the village will save about $300,000 per year, a fraction of the $13 million that funds the Glenview Fire Department. That fraction isn’t worth putting an ambulance out of service, since you never know what will happen, Carnes said.
“It’s a business of 'what ifs', you always plan for the 'what ifs,'” he said. “I realize that times are tough, but in any town, not just Glenview, public safety is your number one."
During negotiations, Carnes said Local 4186 has given up many concessions, but the village refuses to sign off on them, arguing those concessions won't lead to long-term savings.
Even Globerger said he feels caught in the middle, balancing the safety needs of residents, the concerns of his men and helping the village by doing what he can to trim his own budget. He remembers the time when village departments like his fire crew were an “untouchable” entity when it came time for the village to cut funds.
“If you would’ve asked me if I’d see this in my time, I would’ve said, ‘no way,’” he said.
But the bottom line for Globerger is that the village wants to allocate a specific amount of money and the firefighters think they should be getting more. While contract negotiations are still on-going, the village board feels cutting a night ambulance is a step in the right direction.
“In order to balance this year’s budget without raising taxes or fees, the village assessed ways to generate significant cost savings," village officials said in a recent statement. "This included a thorough analysis of ambulance call volume and it was determined that two Glenview ambulances will be in service from 7 p.m. until 7 a.m. This measure to reduce overtime in the Glenview Fire Department will generate approximately $300,000 in savings this year and $600,000 over a two year period.”
Whiles Carnes acknowledged the village’s tough decision, he maintains that when it comes to fully protecting residents, cutting resources is not the way to go.
“I wonder how many people don’t know that there is not an ambulance in their district,” he said.