Jacksonville City Council addresses potential staffing shortage at Fire Department
by Laura Gaddy
Jun 10, 2013 | 2819 views |  0 comments | 86 86 recommendations | email to a friend | print
JACKSONVILLE — Monday the City Council paved the way for quicker advancement within the city Fire Department, a move designed to prevent labor shortages in the future as firefighters retire or otherwise leave the department.

The council reduced the number of years of experience required to be eligible for promotion to the rank of lieutenant from seven to three. It’s a decision that will make it easier for firefighters to advance from within the department, Fire Chief Wade Buckner said.

“”If we lose several people at one time we’re not going to have anybody to take their place,” Buckner said. “It’s not an uncommon problem.”

Buckner said the department began hiring people in the 1980s, as it transitioned from an all-volunteer department. Now many of the employees who were hired at that time and remain at the department have retired or are eligible to retire.

As they vacate their experienced positions the department needs to have the ability to promote firefighters to fill the jobs the retirees leave vacant. Before the Monday decision by the council, firefighters were required to have seven years experience within the department in order to advance.

Now they’ll be required to have just three years experience.

“We do see this becoming a problem in the near future,” Buckner said.

Currently the Fire Department employs 21 full-time employees, 18 part-time employees and it has enlisted 16 volunteer firefighters. In the past two years three of the employees hired in the 1980s have retired, a longtime employee retired early for medical reasons and in the next two years three more experienced employees are expected to retire.

Buckner said the seven employees’ experience collectively adds up to more than 100 years of experience.

Council members said they approved Buckner’s recommendation because they believe the move will have a positive effect.

Councilman Mark Jones said the decision will enable the city to fill positions without compromising quality and Mayor Johnny Smith said he has spoken with Buckner at length about the change.

“I yield to the chief in that area,” Jones said.

The council also increased ambulance billing rates to comply with government regulations,allowed a full-time firefighter to become a part-time employee and approved the volunteer firefighter roster.

Staff writer Laura Gaddy: 256-235-3544. On Twitter @LJohnson_Star.

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