Controversial fire department requests granted

By D. Richard Roth

After several months of heated debate, the DeKalb City Council approved several requests by the DeKalb Fire Department.

The city council granted the fire department permission Monday night for monetary expenditures in response to recent requests.

The issue began on Jan. 25 when fire department officials proposed several purchases be made under the funding of the Foreign Fire Insurance Tax Board (FFITB), said DeKalb City Manager Bill Nicklas.

Several of the proposed purchases initially were opposed vehemently by members of the DeKalb City Council.

At the Jan. 25 council meeting, 7th Ward Alderman Jamie Pennington said he was opposed in principle to all of the items being proposed by the FFITB.

“I do not see the need for the recall jackets. I grew up in a small town and when we had a fire or an emergency everyone knew everyone and there was no problem with identification,” he said.

Other city officials stressed the legitimate importance of the recall jackets.

“When firemen are responding to fire calls in workout clothes and are unidentifiable by other emergency teams and the public, a hazard is created,” Nicklas said.

The items include a color television, two commercial-grade grills, 45 recall jackets and workout clothes, Nicklas said. The recall jackets are worn in response to calls not requiring full turnout gear.

The funding for the items is not a direct function of the city budgeting process, Nicklas said. The revenue raised by the FFITB is a separate fund.

He said this fund is controlled by the council with revisionary suggestions from FFITB members.

“There was an agreement in principle made during the fire department’s bargaining sessions that the council would approve these proposed expenditures,” Nicklas said.

Council members wrestled with the idea of approving the items at both their Jan. 25 and Feb. 8 meetings, only to vote to deny approval each time.

Eventually, after gaining multiple bids for the expenditures, the council decided to grant approval to the purchase of the items because a tentative agreement had been made previously, Nicklas said.

“I think we need to focus on the process of granting approval for items such as these in the future,” said 5th Ward Alderman Bessie Chronopoulos.

The items approved by the DeKalb City Council for purchase will amount to over $6,000 if the lowest bids are utilized, Nicklas said.

“We are very glad it’s over and look forward to collaboratively working with the FFITB to work out the acceptable categories for Fiscal Year 1993/1994 purchases,” he said. “Hopefully, it will be a smoother process.”