Eagle Joint Fire District discusses response time, possible levy


Officials worry about response times suffering from lack of firefighters on duty

By Samantha Phillips

sphillips@vindy.com

HUBBARD

The Eagle Joint Fire District board discussed possibly placing a levy on the general election ballot to enable the fire district to have part-time staffing in the morning and early afternoon.

The fire district is a volunteer department serving Hubbard city and township, and firefighters are paid per hour. There are worries about response times suffering from lack of staffing, officials said.

Several volunteer firefighters attended the district board’s Monday evening meeting, and discussed their ideas and concerns with the board and fire Chief Ron Stanish.

Some firefighters said they believe taxpayers would be amenable to a new levy if it means more reliable service.

Most of the volunteer firefighters also work a full-time job, so the fire district needs more staffing to cover the daytime hours when volunteers are unavailable.

The proposal would put paid staffers on shifts but also would retain the volunteers.

Fire district officials are concerned about response times suffering from lack of staffing, or having to rely on mutual aid if not enough volunteers are available.

“My main issue is on a serious call for a house or structure fire, we need people here to do the job,” Stanish said. “It doesn’t happen every day, but that one time you don’t have staffing and it happens ... that’s my concern, we want people to be safe.”

Stanish noted after the meeting that the response time on one call was 28 minutes due to staffing.

Fire district officials believe adding part-time staffing during the day may be a solution.

One idea was to have four firefighters per day working an eight-hour shift Monday through Friday, which would require hiring 10 part-time firefighters to cover all shifts.

A firefighter suggested having part-time firefighters work 12-hour shifts at a lower rate of pay to cover more of the day.

The tentative proposal was to pay firefighters $15 per hour depending on how many hours would be worked.

The board and attendees discussed which hours would be best for part-time staffing, with one proposal being 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

They also discussed what other costs, such as equipment, should be factored in to the proposal.

Stanish clarified that volunteers would still operate after and sometimes during part-time staffing hours.

“I would still like to see us calling in volunteers during the day for station coverage if there are other calls I don’t want to eliminate volunteers because they have been an asset to this department,” Stanish said. “They do a fantastic job.”

The 1-mill equipment levy that passed in 2015 will be expiring in 2020, so that levy renewal also will be on the ballot. The board said the levy for the part-time staffing would probably be 1 mill, but it did not have official figures yet on how much money that would generate.

The next meeting will be at 6 p.m. June 5 at the fire station, 33 W. Liberty St.

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