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Chief wants to add nine firefighters by 2020 PDF Print E-mail
Written by JOE POIRIER   
Wednesday, 12 July 2017 15:45

Rice seeks full-time staff to cover volunteer shortage as Public Safety Committee determines the cost

    The Public Safety Commission on Tuesday listened to Grafton Fire Chief William Rice’s proposal to add nine full-time staff members over the next three years.
    Rice’s plan is in response to the shortage  of volunteers who assist the department with firefighting and ambulance duties. At last month’s meeting, the committee directed Rice to outline a future staffing plan.
    The commission tabled a motion to recommend to the Village Board a three-year plan to add three full-time staff members per year to serve as firefighters and paramedics beginning in 2018. Members said they want to consider the financial cost for the town and village to add nine full-time staff members by 2020.
    The starting salary for a firefighter is approximately $73,000 with benefits.
    Rice said his greatest concern is finding volunteers to cover weekend shifts.
    “We’re facing the reality that people are different now when it comes to committing to the community,” he said. “This is not just a Grafton or county problem, it’s a nationwide problem.”  
    The fire department has two full-time members, Rice and Division Chief Matt Karpinski, and approximately 65 paid on-call volunteers.
    About one-third of the department’s volunteers help with emergency medical services, another third work strictly as firefighters, and the remaining members fulfill both roles. 
    Currently, three employees of the village’s department of public works and one water department employee are members with the fire department. 
    “We’ve tried using public works and utility employees but I don’t know how long we can sustain using that model,” Rice said.
    Even with the additional staff members, Rice said the fire department will still need the support of volunteers. A typical fire call could require as many as 20 firefighters
    Commission members agreed to consider Rice’s staffing proposal at next month’s meeting after they have evaluated the cost.
    “It’s my job to tell the commission that there’s a problem and it’s not getting any better,” Rice said. “It can’t be put off any longer. I’m asking for help.”

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