Jim Keener

Bradley Interim Fire Chief Jim Keener said he believes the time has ended for Bradley to be a "one fire station" town.

BRADLEY — Bradley has a new part-time assistant fire chief and that is just the first step the village hopes to be taking when it comes to transforming its fire department.

On Monday, the administration introduced Don Kaderabek, a 35-year fire veteran, who most recently had been deputy chief for five years, beginning in 2015, with the Bloomingdale Fire Protection District in DuPage County.

Kaderabek, 58, began his firefighting career with the Niles Fire Department in 1985. He served with Niles for 28 years. He had short stints with the Riverside Fire Department and the Roselle Fire Department where he served in leadership roles.

With Bradley, Kaderabek will earn $40 per hour and is expected to work no more than 30 hours per week. He started with the department on Jan. 6.

Kaderabek was one of about a dozen candidates considered for the position, noted Interim Fire Chief Jim Keerner.

Among Kaderabek’s duties will be officer development, strategic planning and cost containment, as well as improving firefighter training, recruitment and retention.

Regarding the Illinois Fire Chief’s Association review of the department and its needs, the report will be presented to the village board at its Feb. 10 meeting. The report, the first review completed of the department since 2005, will likely focus on the department’s need for expansion — most notably adding a second fire station.

“This is not a one-station town anymore,” Keener said after the board meeting. “This department needs additional manpower and a second location. We have the equipment.”

The department, Keener noted, has two full-time firefighters and two part timers. He said a department for a town like Bradley should have 10-12 members.

At least a portion of the funding for fire expansion could come from an increase in the village’s sales tax rate. A referendum seeking a 1 percentage point hike in the sales tax rate to 7.25 percent is on the March 17 ballot.

If approved, the increased tax rate would take effect July 1.

About six months ago, Bradley Mayor Pro Tem Mike Watson said the examination from 2005 identified 26 recommendations. Of those 26, he said, 24 were designated as “high priority,” meaning they needed to be implemented within one year.

He said during the next 14 years, the bulk of the recommendations were not acted upon.

“Upon taking office as a trustee and now acting mayor, I have had limited exposure to the details of the severe gaps in our first department. However, being fully aware of the seriousness, I am committed to finding a solution,” he said then.

Watson said all options would be examined. He noted the consultant will look at issues such as staffing, station location, equipment, and cooperation with neighboring departments and dispatch.

Keener noted it is hard to recruit firefighters in Bradley and surrounding communities and even harder to keep them because the pay is higher in suburban departments.

“We are in a competitive wage war here in Kankakee County and we are losing people,” he said.

Keener was asked if he was concerned there could be community backlash for seeking more money to operate the village’s fire department.

“We will always have detractors. But having a department like this is not safe for the community,” he said.

Lee Provost, an award-winning reporter, has been writing local news stories for The Daily Journal since 1988. He is a lifelong resident of the region. Provost can be reached at lprovost@daily-journal.com.