Grant could help land mayor’s grandson fire department job
By Bob Okon email@example.com August 11, 2012 7:34PM
Updated: September 13, 2012 6:10AM
JOLIET — A grandson to Mayor Thomas Giarrante could become his third relative in the Joliet Fire Department if the city takes a federal grant to hire more firefighters.
The grant, which has become controversial amid a debate over whether it carries too many indirect costs for the city, would provide $2 million in federal funds to hire eight firefighters.
The city manager and fire chief are urging the city council to take the grant, saying it will allow the fire department to run at full force while saving an estimated $2.4 million in overtime over the two-year life of the grant.
The mayor’s grandson, Ryan Lincoln, has not been part of the public debate. But people on the side have pointed out that he’s in line for a job if the city takes the grant. The presence of the mayor’s grandson on the list also has been mentioned in the past as the city has extended a firefighter hiring list that goes back to 2007, allowing Lincoln to move up higher as others have been taken off the list for age or other reasons. He currently is seventh in line for the next firefighter opening, which means he would be considered for one of the eight jobs funded through the grant.
Giarrante, a former Joliet firefighter himself who headed the union as well, makes no apology for having relatives on the department. He noted that he also has two nephews on the Joliet Fire Department, as well as a nephew and a brother-in-law on the Lockport Fire Department.
The mayor said his only role in getting them the jobs is talking about his own work as a firefighter.
It hasn’t been exactly that easy for his grandson, who was 55th on the original list of 130 when the list was created more than five years ago.
“If it was political, he would have finished higher than he did,” Giarrante said.
One attractive feature of the job is the pay. A Joliet firefighter today starts at $57,000 and will make nearly $74,000 after two years on the job. That does not include overtime.
Joliet firefighter applicants go through a testing process that ranks them on a list from which they are hired. They still have to pass a background check and may be required to do additional testing before hired, especially if the list is an older one.
The presence of the mayor’s grandson on the list has been mentioned before as the list has been extended twice. It’s an aging list, and the city in past years likely would have run new tests to create another list before now.
But the city has been reluctant to go through the expense of testing to develop a new list during a time when it has been cutting budgets and freezing hiring.
“By extending the list we were able to save about $100,000 in testing expenses,” City Manager Thomas Thanas said.
Both Thanas and Fire Chief Joseph Formhals said they favored extending the old list rather than creating a new one.
Formhals said while it was unlikely the city would want to pay for new testing, he wanted a list so he would have a pool of applicants available for an emergency.
“Our occupation is very hazardous,” Formhals said. “You could have an explosion or a large fire where, God forbid, you lose a number of individuals.”
Formhals said Giarrante, “has never talked to me about the list itself or extending the list.”