Liberty hires part-time firefighters to ease staffing pinch


By Sarah Lehr

slehr@vindy.com

LIBERTY

Citing a staffing pinch, township trustees voted Thursday to hire six part-time firefighters.

Pending pre-employment drug testing, the firefighters will each earn $14 an hour without medical benefits.

Trustee Jodi Stoyak said the township decided to increase the hourly wage from $10.50 after Fire Chief Gus Birch advised of difficulties recruiting part-timers who could earn more at other departments.

The new hires come on the heels of complaints from the local chapter of the International Association of Fire Fighters union that the department is having trouble staffing each shift.

Scheduling challenges with part-timers have, at times, forced the department to close one of its two fire stations.

Firefighters say response times lag when one station is closed or when the township must call in outside private or public ambulances.

The fire department has 17 full-time employees, including 14 firefighters, an inspector, a chief and a secretary, though three of those employees are on extended medical leave. It also employs 12 part-timers.

The department has not recently laid off any firefighters.

Trustees have declined to bring any new taxation for the fire department to November’s ballot, despite pleas from the fire union last month.

Trustees did vote, however, to let the electorate decide on five-year renewals of two existing fire levies.

Renewal of a 1-mill fire levy would generate $171,174 annually and cost the owner of a $100,000 home $33.66 a year.

Renewal of a 2-mill fire levy would generate $419,511 annually and cost the owner of a $100,000 home $70 a year.

At the beginning of 2016, trustees appropriated about $1.8 million for the fire district fund out of a nearly $6.2 million total budget.

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