WOODMERE — There’s an ongoing need to improve how the village Fire Department is staffed, especially when considering purchasing a new truck, according to the council members. Treasurer Rhonda Hall and Fire Chief Johnny Brewington are working to find a new model that will provide enough firefighters to man a new truck.
“It’s a necessity to have a vehicle to respond,” Councilwoman Glenda Todd-Miller said at the Finance Committee meeting on Monday. “One run could be a life that is saved.”
The fire department currently has an engine truck, an ambulance and a command car. The department sold its ladder truck. Chief Brewington has expressed interest in purchasing a quint, a fire vehicle that serves as a ladder truck and an engine truck. But National Fire Protection Association standards call for four firefighters to operate a quint. Woodmere’s current staffing is three firefighters per shift. Quints are named for the five functions provided including pump, water tank, fire hose, aerial device and ground ladders.
“We want to capture the capabilities of an aerial device and a pumper in one unit,” Chief Brewington said. “People have to be trained on multiple vehicles.”
There are 33 members of the fire department, with Chief Brewington being the only full-time firefighter. Chairwoman of the Finance Committee Lisa Brockwell said that the underlying problem is pay.
In Woodmere, a part time firefighter cadet gets paid $12.15 per hour and must complete 480 hours in one year to get to Grade B (EMT) which would be $14.79/hour. Grade C (paramedic) rate is $15.16/hour, according to Mrs. Hall.
For comparison, Orange Village has three grades for EMTs and paramedics. Grade 3 EMTs make $11/hour and paramedics make $11.97 per hour. Grade 2 EMTs make $14.88 per hour and paramedics make $17.94 per hour. Grade 1 EMTs make $19.42 per hour and paramedics make $22.43 per hour, according to Village Finance Administrator Cathy Kups.
Mrs. Hall said that village officials should discuss if they prefer to put their funds toward a new truck or competitive wages.
Council President Jennifer Mitchell Early said that the village wants to put the money toward the employees but needs a proper staffing model. Mayor Ben Holbert explained that he is looking for an expert to conduct a survey and determine the best personnel model for the village fire department.
“If we purchased that piece of equipment and did not have the individuals to staff it, that would be a problem,” he said. “We’re trying to get good quality information.”
Mrs. Hall said that the fire department needs to come up with creative ways to meet their staffing needs. Prior to joining Woodmere in August, she was the finance director for Macedonia. Mrs. Hall said that Sagamore Hills and Northfield regionalized their fire department with Macedonia. Woodmere considered contracting with Orange Village’s police department in 2012, but ultimately decided to keep their own police force.
Mrs. Hall gave an example saying that the department could have a pool of part-time employees and pay them $20/hour then schedule them accordingly. Firefighters, however, tend to work part-time in multiple communities, creating scheduling conflicts. She said that she will meet with all of the department heads in the village to discuss how to best use existing financial resources.