“We need help” Bourbonnais Fire details past fiscal moves following failed referendum

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BOURBONNAIS – Eliminated positions, refurbishing a fire engine, upgrading to energy-efficient lighting, and applying for grants. It’s just a few of the things the Bourbonnais Fire Protection District has done before a vote to ‘keep our heads above water’ after a failed referendum in the Village.

Chief Ed St. Louis explained the efforts in a letter posted to area residents on the Bourbonnais Fire Protection District website Wednesday morning after thanking those who voted on the fire tax referendum.  

“While we were disappointed with the outcome, it reinforced that we still have work to do. The board and staff of BFPD will sit down in the near future and discuss our next moves. We would like you all to know that we are not sitting back and just hoping for a miracle. BFPD serves over 30 square miles including the Village of Bourbonnais. We have seen these financial obstacles coming for a while now, and have been making moves to try and avoid cutting any services or resources.” The Department said Wednesday.

Bourbonnais was one of three fire districts in Kankakee County to have a referendum fail on Election Day. Others include Grant Park and Limestone, who had to close the Limestone station on weekends beginning Nov. 7th as a result of the vote.

Among budget trimming measures, Bourbonnais Fire has eliminated a part-time position, refurbished an engine saving the District over a quarter of a million dollars, and applied for grants to aid in staffing and equipment costs.

That engine is scheduled for completion within the next month. By doing this it is our fervent hope that these engines will last us another 7-10 years. We are looking at some staffing realignments that should also help us out in the long run. We were just fortunate to get a FEMA grant for 3 firefighters. Under this grant, those 3 salaries and benefits will be paid for by FEMA for 3 years. After that, it is the district’s cost.” The Department says.

As the second busiest department in Kankakee County, behind only Kankakee, Bourbonnais has the second-lowest tax rate. Bourbonnais Fire serves over 36-square miles and a population of over 36,000 residents.

“With our call volumes, we need more manning without question, but unfortunately, budgets will not allow for it. We need help.” Bourbonnais Fire stressed in Wednesday’s letter to the community. “So, please know that the district is doing everything we can do to keep our heads above water for the present time. And we will continue to be diligent in our efforts to save costs where we can. We are doing everything in our power to not affect response times on EMS or fire needs.” 

Bourbonnais Fire monthly meetings of the board of trustees are held on the fourth Tuesday of each month at 4:30 pm. Meetings are open to the public with a public comment session is included in every meeting. Meeting agendas are posted at least two business days in advance of the meeting at the front door of the fire station.

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