Marshfield looks at increasing firefighter/paramedic staffing
By Kris Leonhardt
MARSHFIELD – In a 5-0 vote, Marshfield’s Police & Fire Commission made the call to increase Marshfield Fire & Rescue staffing by adding three firefighter/paramedics positions.
Chief Scott Owen said that they had been looking at staffing for some time and with call volumes up by nine percent, current staff is extended in providing needed services.
“It is going to ensure that there is at least one more person on duty per day,” Owen said. “We are not going to have to call in for different standbys for overtime events as often. We will never get rid of overtime completely, that is a given, but if we can reduce it that would be great. I ran just 24-hour work back – it’s overtime shifts – for this year. So far, we’ve run 75 days of 24 hours in overtime – 1,800 hours. By adding one additional person, we could have saved 58 days of overtime just because we wouldn’t need to hire back as often.”
Owen said that the positions will be funded through the Fire Department’s EMS Enterprise Fund, and not through tax dollars.
The department currently has contracts with 13 surrounding townships and villages, as well as Marshfield Medical Center. Owen says all funds from those contracts are earmarked for the EMS Enterprise Fund.
“That is where a specific number of firefighter/medics are paid from, where equipment is purchased from, the day-to-day operations, new ambulances – everything goes into this – and for our department when it comes to funding different items, if it is not specific to EMS – like a fire house – we can’t touch the EMS fund,” Owen explained. “Everything that is purchased is specific to the ambulance service or we do cost share with utilities and other things like that here. So, the ambulance itself has no tax implication. The fire protection and fire prevention are on the tax roll – those are supported by taxes. When we do different utility charges or whatever, we split it out 60 percent to protection and prevention and 40 percent to EMS.”
Owen said the need for staffing was compounded by the recent fire that claimed the Wesley Church facilities.
“The Wesley Fire definitely played a part in it,” Owen said. “We have 11 firefighters to a shift, with a minimum manning of eight or nine per day, depending on vacation time, sick leave, family leave, whatever. On Sept. 2, we had eight people on duty – two were out on a 911 ambulance call in the city. They got the Wesley fire started with six. Luckily, the ambulance was able to free up relatively quickly and respond to the scene. But, that initial attack was with six people. I would say that fire definitely helped push the importance and the speed at which we want to move to try to find staff ahead.”
The matter will now go to the Finance, Budget and Personnel Committee and then to the full council for final approval.