Invest in firefighters

Before we as taxpayers consider spending $3.9 million on an addition to the fire station, shouldn’t we first invest into our call firefighters? The call firefighters do a tremendous job responding to fire calls, yet we don’t pay them a proper wage. A call firefighter with three years of experience and Level 2 fire training will earn $8.77 an hour. That is only 2 cent more than the minimum wage. In comparison, a cashier with no experience or training will start at more than $10 an hour at one of our local grocery stores.

Of course, these call firefighters don’t do the job for the money and they won’t ask for a raise, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t pay them a fair wage. We ask these call firefighters to leave their full-time jobs where they make more money, are willing to leave their families during important events and respond to a call at any time, including the middle of the night.

The new station addition will add a new bay, but eliminates one at the same time. Consider also next year we will be replacing both Engine 1 and Rescue 1 with a combined engine/rescue truck, thereby eliminating the need for the extra bay. The other part of this addition is to add new offices; however, we just paid to refurbish the offices within the last 10 years.

The rest of the addition is for exercise room and to prepare the station for full-time firefighters. However, the cost to add the living quarters will be an added future cost. If we take care of our call firefighters, none of this would be needed. And there is a local downtown storage facility that can provide secure/heated storage for the non-emergency equipment for around $800 a month. It would be cheaper to pay this for the next 35 years than adding room on the station just for storage.

It would be a lot cheaper to double the current call firefighter’s pay than pay for this unneeded addition to the Fire Station. Let’s vote “NO” on the new fire station in invest that money in our call firefighters. Maybe if we pay our great call firefighters a fair wage, we can push this addition and the need for more full-time firefighters off for another five to 10 or more years.