RFD Board Votes to Outsource Fire Service


UPDATE

ROCKFORD (WIFR) – At a time when the Rockford Fire Department is swearing in new recruits the end of a nine year partnership could mean layoffs for emergency responders. The threat comes after leaders of the Rockford Airport decided tonight to outsource more than million dollar contract.

Just months after hiring more than a dozen recruits the Rockford Fire Department is facing an unexpected budget issue.

“We have treated this as an extension of our fire department,” said Rockford Fire Chief Derek Bergsten. “[This] wasn't just something we contracted with to provide haphazardly. Anything we do we’re going to do to the best of our ability.”

The Rockford Airport voted to end a nearly ten year partnership with the first responders putting Chief Bergsten in what he calls a rough spot. Starting next February Aircraft Rescue Firefighter Services (ARFF) will be outsourced to a Wisconsin based company eliminating nearly one and a half million dollars the department counts on yearly. Eight jobs could also be on the line.

“Two firefighters everyday are assigned to ARFF and now they will no longer be there,” said Rockford Fire Lieutenant and Rockford Firefighter Local 413 Union President Brad Walker said. “With attrition if we have some of our more experienced firefighters decide to retire than that would create those openings in the budget and hopefully we won’t lose any of the new recruits we have.”

Pro-Tec Fire Service will take over the job in February and will cost the transportation authority less than half what the fire department was charging. The airport paid nearly $100,000 monthly to the fire department for the service. Pro-Tec is charging the airport $600,000 a year.

“I think the city got a little greedy perhaps in what they were charging us,” said Airport Board Executive Director Mike Dunn. “That’s for them to understand and justify, we just can’t afford to pay it anymore.”

The department says they had no chance to negotiate a lower contract with the airport. Rockford Fire found out about the board’s decision just two days before the official vote.

“We just didn't have that opportunity,” said Chief Bergsten. “It’s just one of those things that we’ll never know. [The airport board] felt they had a decision to make and they made it.”

Pro-Tec Fire Service is based out of Green Bay, Wisconsin. They provide aircraft rescue fire protection services to seventeen airports throughout the U.S.

RFD’s Executive Director Mike Dunn says Pro-Tec will likely hire locally to replace the eight full-time firefighters Rockford Fire had assigned at the airport.

Chief Bergsten says he will meet with the department’s finance team to work on the budget now that the money from the airport contract will no longer be there. The fire department will still serve the airport for normal firefighting duties.

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ROCKFORD (WIFR) -- Rockford's airport is ending its nine year partnership with the Rockford Fire Department.

Thursday night the airport board voted unanimously to outsource aircraft rescue services to a Wisconsin company. The airport expects to save $800,000.

Rockford's Fire Chief says eight firefighters work at the airport fire station and now layoffs are a possibility.

23 News Reporter Jorge Rodas will have complete coverage tonight on the 23 News Update at 10.


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