Vote paves way for more full-time firefighters

Committee approves job description, pay grades for hires that will expand GFD ranks next year
By 
JOE POIRIER
Ozaukee Press Staff

The Grafton Fire Department is seeking to add two more full-time firefighters/paramedics to its staff by next year.

The village’s Finance Committee on Monday approved the job description and pay grade assignment for a new firefighter position by a 2-1 vote.

Trustees Lisa Uribe Harbeck and Dave Antoine voted in favor and Sue Meinecke was opposed.

In the past, Meinecke said she was opposed to the additional firefighters because of the cost to finance the positions.

Last month, the Village Board approved hiring one additional firefighter in the 2019 budget, but decided it will consider an additional hire depending on the available funding in the second quarter.

The department hired Tom Schoofs as its first full-time firefighter in July, and Fire Chief Bill Rice has requested two more members to staff the department around the clock.

Rice said he will hire two firefighters at staggered dates between February and April, based on available funding.

The starting salary for the positions is $49,223.

A firefighter works a 24-hour shift and is then off for 48 hours.

“That will give us one person per day to help staff the department 24/7 but that doesn’t include sick time and vacation,” Rice said.

Officials said the fire department has trouble maintaining personnel because of a growing shortage in daytime volunteers for weekend and evening shifts.

The department has about 60 volunteers.

Rice said his greatest challenge is finding volunteers for emergency medical services.

“The toughest part for me is to get EMTs and paramedics that are willing to be available for multiple nights and weekends,” Rice said in April.

Rice said the reason for the shortage in volunteers is that people’s schedules are less flexible between work and family compared to previous generations.

About one-third of the department’s volunteers help with emergency medical services, another third work strictly as firefighters, and the remaining volunteers fill both roles.

Rice also said he relies on mutual aid from other fire departments in Ozaukee County to assist with emergency calls, which is common among other communities.

The Village Board will have to vote on the firefighter position description and salary before the department can begin the hiring process.

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Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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