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Rescue squad staffing to be decided


March 02, 2005 - By SCOTT MILLER

Staff Reporter

The Mehlville Fire Protection District will pay from $41,824 to $140,071 in overtime to staff the heavy rescue squad until July while firefighters take vacations this spring and early summer.

"We've had (the squad) staffed about every day this year," Deputy Chief Steve Mossotti told the Call. "We've had the personnel available (to staff it) because of lack of vacation time, but when you get into the summer months, that's when we have people scheduled for vacations."

The Board of Directors was scheduled to decide Monday night — after the Call went to press — whether to spend $41,824 to have two firefighters staff the heavy rescue squad or $140,071 for three firefighters, according to in-formation comptroller Jeff Geisler presented to the board last week.

"These amounts are obviously based on our current staffing as of right now and vacation schedules," Geisler said. "There's no cushion in there for somebody to get injured or for any type of illness that may occur from this time period to July 1."

The rescue squad has been part-time operational since the district decided in 2002 not to fill several positions left vacant through attrition. The board's decision on Monday was whether to pay overtime to two or three firefighters to operate the rescue squad full time until July 1, when more firefighters may be hired.

"Last year, I would say about 50 percent of the time it was staffed," Mossotti said. "The squad was only staffed when people are available."

And fewer firefighters are available in the summer be-cause of vacation, he said.

While positions have been lost through attrition, money for them still is budgeted, so the overtime expense is accounted for, Mossotti said, and the positions may be filled.

"This is probably a stopgap (measure) until we can hire new personnel," he said.

Mehlville also is considering hiring more paramedics.

The board Feb. 14 voted unanimously to pay roughly $91,000 for two overtime paramedics to operate the fifth ambulance full-time through July 1, when four new paramedics could be hired, Assistant Chief EMS Phil Minnella told the Call. That money also is budgeted.

The re-staffing of vacant positions is a recommendation of the Fire District Advisory Committee for Tomorrow's Emergency Services, or FACTS, a panel of nearly 100 district residents.

In November, voters approved a 33-cent tax increase to fund the five-year district improvement plan recommended by FACTS. The tax increase will help the district refill the vacant positions.

On the rescue squad, firefighters work in three shifts — A, B and C.

For two firefighters, the district would need four days of overtime through July 1 for shift A, 40 days for shift B and zero days for shift C, totaling $41,824 in overtime, according to Geisler's information.

For three firefighters, the district would need 36 days of overtime for shift A, 84 days for shift B and 28 days for shift C.

"The B shift has one less person," Mossotti told the board last week. "We don't have equal staffing on all three shifts."

If personnel changes, the cost also could change.

"We still have some posting for vacancies on different shifts so obviously if someone moves between shifts we have to transfer someone back over to keep them balanced," Mossotti told the board. "The cost could go up slightly until we can get the crews balanced."

Board member David Gralike said, "Just as a comment, I would like to see the (rescue) squad back in service. My preference would be two people."

Board Chairman Tom O'Driscoll wanted to delay a vote to have one week to consider the effects of using two or three firefighters.

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