Bloomington City Council approved two ordinances with amendments Wednesday night that reach a compromise between the Bloomington Fire Department union and city administration. The council postponed a vote on the ordinances during their meeting last week to allow both parties to meet and come to an agreement on the proposed changes.
At yesterday’s meeting, fire union and administration officials agreed amend Ordinances 23-12 and 23-13 and remove items that would add three community paramedics and create an assistant chief of operations position within the Bloomington Fire Department.
During last week’s meeting, councilmembers heard two hours of contentious testimony from Fire Chief Jason Moore and union representative Jordan Canada regarding the proposed positions. Moore said these new positions would improve patient outcomes and help address staffing shortages in the department, which is understaffed by 21 positions.
However, Canada and other union representatives argued against the new positions. Canada said at the meeting last week the union was concerned that hiring new community paramedic positions — a proposal included in Ordinance 23-12 — could potentially lead to the shutdown of the fire department’s squad, a two-person response vehicle created in 2017. The squad is currently filled by sworn firefighters and Canada pointed out that the community paramedics would be civilians.
Union representatives also argued that creating an assistant chief of operations position — included in Ordinance 23-13 — would leave another sworn officer position unfilled and that the responsibilities assigned to the position should be handled by more than one person.
Canada also said he and other union representatives only heard about the proposed positions several days before last week’s city council meeting. He asked the council to push a vote until after the council’s recess.
After meeting with fire union representatives last week, Moore said at Wednesday’s meeting the department needed more time to confirm the details of the proposed positions. Moore said he wants to bring these proposals back to the council but did not specify when he planned to revisit the amendments.
The amended version of Ordinance 23-12 amends Ordinance 22-26, which fixed the salaries of appointed officers, non-union and American Federation of State, Couty and Municipal employees in city departments. This ordinance will add one new position in the Engineering Department and update job titles in the Legal Department, according to a memo from the council office. Ordinance 23-12 will also increase the job grade of the Environmental Program Specialist in the Utilities Department from grade 6 to 7, which would increase the position’s salary.
The amended version of Ordinance 23-13 amends Ordinance 22-25, which fixed the salaries of Bloomington fire and police officers for 2023. The amendment allows the fire department to provide more pay to specific firefighters, chauffeurs and captains who worked during the COVID-19 pandemic. Ordinance 23-13 also allows the department to provide a one-time signing bonus of $5,000 to new Bloomington firefighters, as well as provide $100 premium payments to Battalion Chiefs who work non-scheduled 24-hour shifts.
Ordinance 23-13 allows the City of Bloomington to “buy back” Kelly Days from firefighters. According to meeting documents, Kelly days are scheduled days off built into a fire department employee’s rotation. This provision of Ordinance 23-13 would allow firefighters to work on their previously scheduled days off and receive pay for those hours worked.