First, I would like to thank you for your service to the community. While it may be a joy to serve when coffers are flush, the past few years of constricting budgets have certainly made your job tougher.
For the sake of transparency, I am a professional Berwyn firefighter. I respond to your community for mutual aid and rely on the professional firefighters currently employed by your village to respond to my community as well.
Those who were fortunate to be born in or near the North Riverside area have seen quite a change in the landscape (from a sleepy bedroom community to rows of houses, shopping centers and beautiful parks), but all of the original charm has not been lost.
North Riverside is no different than any other community; the demands for services remain and have increased over the years. I am confident that I am not alone in my concerns for the future of your village. It is my belief that if you want something, you must be willing to pay for it.
Local law enforcement, firefighters and public works are the backbone of every community. North Riverside has grown, and public safety must reflect that growth. You must be committed to the protection of every member of your community, and you should not compromise through “acceptable risk” your investments in manpower or professionalism.
Unfortunately, through poor leadership over the past decade and non-payment of required retirement contributions (as mandated by the state of Illinois), the village has now become a battleground for what politicians believe is their way out of their contractual agreements.
Contracting out traditional firefighter roles and responsibilities to a for-profit company, a company that will make decisions based on their bottom line and not for the concern or safety of your residents, is not a wise decision. Public safety decisions should be made by the people who understand it best, firefighters, not for-profit companies and politicians. This action can and should be avoided.
Looking back upon this situation, you know in your heart of hearts that the answers to these challenges can be traced back to the past. You must now look at the reality of the present and the dreams of your future and ask yourselves: Have you done all you can to avoid what could have a devastating effect on your community?
The village of North Riverside deserves a level of services that cannot be achieved with a “race to the bottom” when it comes to funding or professionalism. I implore you to look at your budget again and decide what services you want to provide rather than the price tag attached to them. North Riverside is a place where people want to live. The residents will pay for the privilege, and others (including businesses) will continue to follow.
The sustainable future of a professional full-time fire department in North Riverside lies in your willingness to ask more from those who reap the benefits of living here today.
Live up to your motto, “A Small Community with a Big Heart.”
Felix A Greco, president
Berwyn Fire Fighters Association Local 506