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McHenry Township fire chief says bonus program a success

McHENRY – A program designed to reward officers for working more shifts has helped keep the McHenry Township Fire Protection District costs down, its chief said.

The district's board of trustees implemented the officer shift bonus program six months ago, and so far, it's a success, Fire Chief Tony Huemann said. The board will evaluate the program and consider whether to renew it at the end of the year.

Under the program, captains and lieutenants who work five 12-hour shifts in a month get paid an extra $100. If they work seven shifts, they get a $200 bonus.

At the same time, the department has "virtually eliminated" overtime by working with employees so that when shifts are traded, it doesn't put someone into overtime, Huemann said.

"We are doing everything we can to keep the cost down of running this fire department," he said. "Instead of paying people paying people time and half or hiring full-time, we're trying to keep this department part-time."

It also rewards officers, who have other full-time jobs, for taking more time away from their families as well as aids the department in meeting the other goal it set for the year, having an officer on each engine and ambulance that goes out, he said.

Huemann said they felt having officers present to supervise and manage incidents was necessary.

Since the program was created at the beginning of 2013, the department has paid out $14,000, about half of the $28,800 maximum the program could pay out.

That's much less than hiring full-time officers, Huemann said.

The department doesn't have an estimate on what it would cost to hire a full-time officer because it has never done so, but battalion chiefs – of which the department has two and is looking to hire a third in a month or two – make around $90,000, he said.

Using that salary and the multiplier the district uses to calculate benefits, one full-time officer would cost the district no more than $133,200 a year.

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