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Written by STEVE OSTERMANN   
Wednesday, 07 January 2015 18:58

Fire chief’s request for change from per-call stipends recommended by village’s Finance Committee

Grafton firefighters and emergency medical staff should be paid hourly wages for on-call duties, the village’s Finance Committee recommended Monday.

The four-member committee, which is headed by Village President Jim Brunnquell, backed a proposal by Fire Chief William Rice that calls for changing the pay from stipends to hourly rates based on members’ qualifications.

Although the department has a long history as an all-volunteer organization, restructuring plans approved by village and town residents in a November 2012 referendum called for hiring a full-time chief and providing per-call pay for firefighters and emergency medical responders.

Rice was hired in July 2013. The department is paying basic firefighters and EMTs $20 per call and advanced EMTs $25 per call.

In addition, day-shift emergency medical technicians are paid hourly wages to staff the fire station from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays.

In a report to the committee, Rice said the department could face a legal challenge by paying day-shift employees an hourly rate and a per-call stipend.

“I had been aware of concerns in other departments where this dual-role pay practice was found to be of concern with Fair Labor Standard Act rulings,” Rice said.

“I have concluded that our department is best served by being either all-volunteer stipends or all hourly part-time paid.”

Rice recommended a pay scale that calls for hourly rates ranging from $10 for firefighters and EMTs with basic qualifications and less than four state certifications to $15 for members who have both firefighter and paramedic training.

Rice also recommended paying an end-of-the-year bonus of $800 for department officers who meet predetermined benchmarks for training and complete special projects and end-of-the-year certification bonuses of $1,000 for advanced paramedics and $750 for advanced EMTs.

“Our recommendations are based on discussion with our members, neighboring chiefs and a review of statewide pay schedules,” Rice said.

“Mostly, our pay reflects an attempt to continue to pay our employees at a very similar rate to what they are currently making through the stipend system.”

Village Administrator Darrell Hofland said Rice’s proposal for hourly and bonus  pay is expected to be covered by the department’s 2015 budget, which includes $467,210 for fire prevention and rescue personnel.

That total includes salaries for the fire chief, a new division chief who will be hired this year, a half-time officer and all volunteers.

The total for volunteers’ pay is based on 1,100 calls the department received annually for 2013 and 2014, Hofland said.

“The budget is based on the expected needs of the department based on recommendations by the fire chief,” Hofland said.

The Village Board is scheduled to consider the committee’s recommendation Monday Jan. 19. Pending board approval, the new pay schedule will go into effect Feb. 1.

Hofland said the village is accepting applications for the job of division chief, who will take over fire inspections, respond to day-time EMS calls, fire and other emergencies and oversee fire education and public information programs. The application deadline is Jan. 16.

Hofland said an assessment committee formed by Rice will review the applicants and create a list of finalists. Rice will then  recommend his choice to the Police and Fire Commission.

The division chief is expected to be hired by March, Hofland said.


 
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