BRADLEY — Bradley could begin fanning the flames for a second fire station as soon as 2022, officials said on Monday, but the first matter is beefing up the department’s workforce.
The rational? With only one department location and six full-time firefighters/paramedics, the village is woefully behind on manpower.
Following a report from David Slivinski, program director for assessment and consulting services for the Illinois Fire Chiefs Association, Bradley Mayor Pro Tem Mike Watson said the village’s first order of business is addressing staffing levels.
Watson noted the success of the March 17 referendum — which would double the village’s 1 percent sales-tax rate to 2 percent — is a key factor in the village moving forward to modernizing its fire service.
Overall, the sale’s tax rate would grow from 6.25 percent to 7.25 percent. Of the current 6.25 percent rate, only 1 percentage point goes to the village while 5 percentage points goes to the state.
Watson said a successful referendum, which would allow the village to rebate its $2 million portion of property taxes on residential and commercial properties to the owners, while at the same time putting $1.25 million annually toward village infrastructure and upgrading its fire department.
With Bradley being Kankakee County’s retail hub, the thought is the bulk of the new sales-tax money will come from those shopping in the village — the majority being those who don’t live within the village.
If voters approve the sale-tax referendum, the increased tax rate would take effect July 1, 2020. Watson said if the measure is successful, the village would begin addressing the fire department staffing levels in “short order.”
Exploring the location and construction needs for a second fire station located somewhere in the northern portion of the village, said village finance director Rob Romo, would like begin in earnest in 2022.
Bradley’s only fire station is located at the village’s administrative center along West Broadway Street.
Responding to calls in the proper time frame is the issue, noted Slivinski. He said the village department simply cannot get that done with the configuration of the current force.
In a PowerPoint presentation, he noted 39 percent of fire calls since January 2016 have been responded to by the department within 4 minutes, the standard for fire service. In that same period, only 40 percent of ambulance calls have been met within that 4-minute window.
He noted many other calls take 8, 9 or even 10 minutes to respond. In many instances, emergency calls have to be handled by neighboring departments, meaning the village loses response fees.
The village has been discussing this issue for years. A similar study to the one recently completed by Slivinski said much the same, but due to issues — mainly funding — department expansion was not acted upon.
With a village primed for growth, Watson said the time has come to move on meeting this public safety need.