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Wayne's Words: Female firefighters and 4th of July facts

Wayne Horne | 6/28/2018, 4:35 p.m.
After 165 years the Joliet Fire Department has hired its first female Firefighter. If you believe a new wave of ...

After 165 years the Joliet Fire Department has hired its first female Firefighter. If you believe a new wave of diversity is occurring don’t hold your breath. According to the website DATAUSA female firefighters account for less than five percent of the 1.1 million firefighters in the country. Diversity in firefighting is a long way from reality.

It’s one of the last bastions of white male employment. Approximately 85.5 percent of firefighters are white males. It’s also one of the best paying jobs in municipal government. Average pay for a Joliet firefighter, including overtime, exceeds $100,000 annually. The new firefighter, Carissa Smith, can look forward to substantial pay and excellent benefits. At age 59 she can retire with a generous pension and free lifetime health insurance.

Let’s hope it doesn’t take another 165 years to recruit more female firefighters.

While we’re on the subject of benefits, a couple of weeks ago the City of Joliet settled a lawsuit originally brought by a retired Joliet firefighter that will cost the Joliet city coffers in excess of $700,000. The city must reimburse employees who retired prior to 2010 for an increase in premiums for their guaranteed lifetime health insurance. The premiums, according to the settlement cannot increase until 2030. It’s possible they won’t increase then either. The final cost of the settlement will be determined by the addition of the legal expense for the lawsuit.

Police and Fire retirees and other city retirees with 20 or more years of service receive lifetime single healthcare coverage at no charge. Dependent costs are $217.68 per month for Pre-Medicare coverage and $59.10 for a spouse on Medicare. The surviving spouse of a retired member pays the dependent single rate.

The city’s retiree health insurance program is a pay-as-you go system. The current unfunded accrued liability as of January 1, 2016 is $310.2 million, according to the most recent actuarial report on the City of Joliet website. Pay-as-go means that property tax payers pay the bill each year. The more retirees on the plan at a fixed cost to each member, the more it costs each year.

A more fun subject is the upcoming July 4 holiday. The holiday is made possible by our country’s founding fathers. A much-maligned group whose history often depends on who is telling the story. Following is a bit of that story gleaned from various internet sources.

The 4th of July is the birthday of the United States of America. The date represents the signing of the Declaration of Independence. In fact, only two people signed the document on July 4th.

The two signers were John Hancock and Charles Thomson. Most of the other signers did not actually sign the document until August 2, 1776. As the other delegates signed the document their signatures were entered in the order of the geographic location they represented. New Hampshire, the northernmost state, began the list, and Georgia, the southernmost, ended it.

The average age of the signers of the document was 45. The youngest, Thomas Lynch, was 27 and the oldest, Benjamin Franklin, was 70. One of the several websites these “fun facts” were gathered from warned the accuracy could not be guaranteed and the “facts” were subject to revision. Really, it said that!