Could Naperville Be Moving Toward Privatizing The Fire Department

Things are working pretty good at the Naperville Fire Department. They receive a lot of recognition and awards. In fact, things are going so well with Naperville’s fire department, city officials are looking to see how they can change it. It’s being done in the spirit of cost effectiveness and efficiency, meaning it might be time to consolidate the number of fire department locations and trim the number of employees.

Naperville city officials have publicly said nothing about privatization of the fire department, but nor did city officials from the hundreds of other municipal fire departments throughout the country before the change became imminent. Naperville city officials should be applauded for seeking cost efficiencies but should those cost cutting measures be focused on the fire and police departments? Those are services of safety and well-being that can affect all residents and businesses in Naperville. Other than clean water and refuse pick-up, just about every service the city provides affects the good folks of Naperville to a far lesser degree than police and fire services.

Personally I can do with much less Carillon music than I can do with a lower response time from the fire department. When it’s time to review my home owner’s insurance, the insurance company wants to know the distance from my home to the closest fire station, and not whether or not I can hear the Carillon bells.

Currently Naperville’s arrival time is about six minutes about 90% of the time. Seems like a reasonable amount of time unless I’m the guy having a heart attack, or it’s my home looking like a huge Bunsen burner. Given the chance to reduce that time down to five minutes or having leaves removed from my yard by the city, I’ll go with the five minute response-time option from the fire department.

Naperville city manager Doug Krieger said that any reductions in fire department staffing to facilitate consolidation would happen via retirement and attrition. So that’s good news for job security within the fire department, but it’s not good news for the workload of those remaining, nor is it necessarily good news for the residents and businesses of Naperville depending upon quick response time in an emergency.

Many municipalities have moved to privatizing fire department services in an effort to combat unionization and the increasing costs of higher salaries, benefits, pensions, and defending lawsuits, so trying to control those expenses is understandable, but to what end? If the end is a reduction in service or positive outcomes, then even though city officials may come out ahead, it will be at the expense of the good folks of Naperville.

The good news is, if you live within the sound of the Carillon bells, and your home catches fire, you’ll be able to hear the bells a few minutes longer until a fire truck or ambulance arrives.

Show 5 Comments


  1. Gerard H Schilling

    With the exception of police most public services i.e. fire, ambulance, parks, recreation, gyms, golf courses etc. were always provided by private sources.

    Only after bureaucrats in collusion with union backed politicians did these services become government controlled, forever growing, bloated and basically inefficient where like a cancer they consume the host (tax payers).

    Cities like Naperville has reached the law of diminishing returns where there is nothing left to cannibalize and where the tax payer is squeezed like a lemon until there is no lemonade left to make.

    Wages, benefits and pensions exceed anything reasonable, warranted or needed to hire these services and all of them should be converted to free market capitalistic enterprises.

    • Jim

      Yeah, Reagan tried this. It didn’t turn out as planned. The first couple of years were OK, but once the capitalist new the government could not turn back the cost savings quickly vanished. Just look what capitalism has done for medicine, pharmaceuticals and insurance to name just a few. Some services are so equally essential to all citizens that they are best left to governments to provide.

  2. John

    I agree with privatization since it will involve competition while government is a monopoly and really does not care about costs .

    • Jim

      Privatization or more appropriately capitalism (for profit) is solely focused on profits for investors (it sole measure of success), and concerned only with providing the lowest acceptable level of publicly perceived quality (which can be controlled by less costly PR campaigns). Public or not-for-profits measure success by the quality of the services (obviously no profits to measure). So shifting from not-for-profit to for profit will always result in a drop in the quality of service or goods provided followed by an aggressive PR campaign to convince the public that the quality provided is more then acceptable and meets the needs of the public. This pattern was repeatedly exhibited during Reagan’s privatization efforts with the Federal Government. Much of the government privatization done during the Reagan administration has been reversed simply because they were bad decisions from the start.

      Doing the something over and over again and expecting a different out come has a couple of commonly accepted definitions non of which are good, at least in the sense of responsible decision making.

  3. Nancy

    What have competition and privatization done for medicine? Nothing but drive the patient costs up so much so that these for-profit companies can pay outrageous salaries to their executives. Medicare, a government run program, delivers results much more effectively. Let’s leave the fire department alone—it does not need “fixing”.

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