Fire Board Will Request Two New Positions
After nearly an hour of discussion at their June 12 meeting, the Campbell County Joint Powers Fire Board approved moving forward with requesting two full-time battalion chief positions to help ease some of the current staffing strain.
“I think it’s clear from any direction that we look at this, the staffing model and our current succession plans are just not working anymore,” said Tim Williams, a 20-year fire department volunteer who currently serves as a part-time battalion chief, in addition to his full time day job.
He pointed out that two years ago, the fire department’s staffing model worked with five part-time battalion chiefs. But, now that number is down to two.
“I think we’ve passed urgent and we’re now becoming emergent with the staffing issue,” said Williams. “My biggest concern is for the safety of our full-time crews and the safety of this community.”
Interim Chief J.R Fox presented the board with different staffing options based on the most recent staffing study already presented to the board. The most aggressive option would have a $1 million budget impact on the department over the next three years.
Interim Training Chief Brian Borgialli said the additional duties that every firefighter takes on doesn’t just affect the employee or the organization, but their entire family.
“It’s a total life impact,” he added.
Board Chairman Cory Bryngelson pointed out that two years ago the fire board voted to do away with on-call pay for division chiefs, leaving them uncompensated unless they are called out of the station. However, they still must be able to respond to a call within 60 seconds.
“The longer we go without adding some additional full-time staff on engines, it shifts the burden to our part-time staff,” said Fox, “and then, as we heard tonight, the more burden we put on the part-time staff, the less likely it is that we’re going to keep those folks in the fold and keep them active – keep them engaged.”
Newly appointed Campbell County Fire Chief Jeff Bender sat through the discussion, as did Commissioner Liaison DG Reardon, who commended the idea of getting the funding agencies together to discuss the issue of staffing.
“You’ve got to start somewhere,” he said, adding that government often moves slowly and thoughtfully.
In addition to asking the funding entities for two additional full-time battalion chief positions, the board also formed a committee made up of board members Bryngelson, Bill Sims of Wright, and Joe Case of Gillette, to further discuss the staffing needs with Fox.