Will Harrisburg Fire Department respond to out of town fire calls July 1, or won’t they? That is the question commissioners bounced back and forth during Thursday night’s meeting of council.
In the end, it was decided the fire department would not respond. But then it was revealed if there is not a special meeting by July 1 to vote on a change to the agreement with Saline County 911, firefighters are obliged to respond whether council allows them to or not.
Harrisburg Mayor Eric Gregg and council member John McPeek had appeared to be on board with other Harrisburg City Council members on the decision of not responding to fire calls outside the city, but they have changed their minds.
Council voted unanimously Dec. 6, 2012, to cease responding to calls outside the city July 1 of this year with the exception of responding to mutual aid calls from other departments responding within their corporate limits.
Gregg now has decided he cannot in good conscience keep that deadline.
“Personally, I do not feel it’s in the best interest to say ‘no outside fire calls July 1,’” Gregg said.
He suggested pursuing a rural fire protection district, imposing new costs for out of town calls or annexations as options. He does not believe the county board’s current plan — to remove Harrisburg from the county fire district map and let other department’s take over Harrisburg’s response area — is a good option, either.
“I’ve looked at that map. It’s a logistical nightmare to think Eldorado will come over here to fight a fire,” Gregg said.
“I think someone is going to lose their life or property.”
Fearheiley and Crank were firm they intended to keep the deadline.
“It’s a matter of money and manning,” Fearheiley said.
Ron Crank said as a Harrisburg council member his duty is to promote the best situation for the people of Harrisburg and part of that is keeping the fire department that city taxpayers have funded working within the city.
“I’m not really concerned about the county,” Crank said.
McPeek posed a series of scenarios, including his own car overturned in a water-filled ditch while on the way to his work in Marion, cars at the Accelaquarter Raceway Park north of the city catching fire, field fires caused by Independence Day revelers and school buses of Harrisburg students having a disaster. He asked if the fire department would respond.
Gregg made a motion to extend the deadline to July 1, 2014. McPeek seconded the motion. Ron Fearheiley and Ron Crank voted the motion down. Police and Fire Commissioner Bart Schiff was not at the meeting as he has not been the past several regular meetings, due, it was said, to a work conflict.
Page 2 of 2 - Unless there is a special meeting prior to July 1 that generates three votes in favor of extending the deadline, the July 1, 2013, deadline remains.
However, council must approve a change in the agreement with Saline County 911 saying Harrisburg is not to be toned to fires or wrecks outside the city. The agreement reflecting that change has not been written, so council did not vote to change the agreement to send to the county.
“We don’t have the agreement in front of us? I’m not voting on it,” McPeek said.
Council asked Fire Chief Bill Summers what the agreement would say.
“Either we will or we won’t,” Summers said.
Council decided to vote on a 911 agreement at a special meeting, though no date was set Thursday. As it currently stands, firefighters remain obliged to respond wherever Saline County telecommunications tell them to, inside the city or outside.
In April Gregg was appointed by Governor Pat Quinn to the Illinois Prisoner Review Board. Gregg has said he is leaving office once finance commissioner Ron Crank is finished with chemotherapy treatments for brain cancer and can take over the position. The finance commissioner is next in line for mayor. Gregg said assurance of Crank’s well-being and opening a movie theater are the two goals left in his office of mayor. Since taking the state position, Gregg is donating his pay as mayor to charities. Thursday he donated two city paychecks, one in the amount of $730 and one in the amount of $100 to the Harrisburg High School Soccer Booster Club.
At the Illinois Prisoner Review Board Gregg’s salary is $86,000-a-year until 2019 if confirmed by the Senate.
The Prisoner Review Board considers the parole requests of inmates, reviews cases to determine whether parolees violated terms of release and makes confidential recommendations to the governor on clemency petitions, according to the Associated Press.
Council approved giving 200 tons of dirt from impoundments near the Pauper Farm Crossing to Illinois Department of Natural Resources for berms for a firearm range at the Sahara Woods portion of the Saline County Fish and Wildlife Area. Police would benefit from the range for firearm qualifying and the city would benefit by getting rid of the mounds of dirt.
Fearheiley brought to council’s attention work to replace the sidewalk on the North Main Street portion of the town square in front of Durham’s Hardware. There is now a wheelchair ramp there.