The City of Evanston strongly opposes Amendment 1 to House Bill 5485, which seeks to add mandatory minimum manning as a subject of collective bargaining for the fire department. While we support our firemen, the negative impacts of taking minimum manning standard controls from the city far outweigh the perceived benefits.
Minimum manning standards undermine the ability of the Fire Chief to appropriately manage and staff local fire departments based on individual community-needs. Additionally, it fails to account for cross-city measures such as Mutual Aid Box Alarm System, or MABAS, that many communities participate in, like Evanston, allowing for the efficient emergency response through multi-jurisdictional cooperation. In December, Evanston used MABAS to aid the Evanston Fire Department (EFD) in the Davis Street fire. Recognizing the severity of the fire, EFD activated MABAS and Morton Grove, Northfield, Skokie, Wilmette, and Winnetka all sent companies to aid EFD.
The cost of minimum manning to the City of Evanston ranges anywhere from $3.6 million (in the case of an extra fireman per shift per day) to $75.6 million (in the case of an extra fireman per apparatus per shift). This funding could come at the expense of either citizens (through a property tax increase) or cuts in other departments – each job created within the fire department would require the elimination of a different position within the city. With this trade-off in mind, putting the decision into the hands of a third-party arbitrator instead of locally-elected officials seems questionable, and sets an unfavorable precedent.