City and fire union officials issued dueling news releases Monday after the city on Sunday carried out the scheduled layoff of three firefighters.
Union President Brian Scott focused on the decision to take one of the city’s two ladder trucks out of service and claimed the move placed Evanston residents “at increased risk.”
City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz said the change will increase the number of fire ambulances on duty from two to three as the two firefighters left from a three-person truck crew are shifted to what had been the city’s backup ambulance, so the city will continue to have nine fire units in service.
Bobkiewicz added that the union had formally asked Friday to resume bargaining with the city — after earlier demanding arbitration and filing unfair labor practice charges that remain unresolved.
The city manager said the city wants safety for residents and firefighters as well as “a labor agreement that recognizes the fiscal realities faced by the City and its taxpayers.”
Under the new deployment plan, the ladder truck formerly located at Fire Station #2 on Madison Street in south Evanston is being relocated to the centrally located Fire Station #1 on Emerson Street. The ladder truck formerly located at Fire Station #3 on Central Street in north Evanston is being taken out of service.
Bobkiewicz said that the new configuration “remains well withing guidelines of the National Fire Protection Association for response within a 2-1/2 mile radius of where the truck is stationed and a four minute first level response to all of Evanston.”
Scott said eliminating the ladder truck “could have the worst possible impact on a densely populated, vertical city like Evanston.”
He said the “irresponsible action” by the city manager would leave residents of mid and high-rise buildings at increased risk.
“Anyone who lives in a building four stories or taller should be very, very disturbed by this action,” Scott added.
The fire union has demanded that the city negotiate with it on staffing levels, a move the city has rejected as fiscally irresponsible.
Bobkiewicz criticized the union for “negotiating in public and investing its time and attention on spreading fear among the residents of Evanston.”