Despite promised pay increase, firefighting a tough sell

Updated: Dec 30, 2021

MOUND CITY – Linn County Fire Chief Doug Barlet met with the Linn County Commissioners on Monday, Nov. 22, to discuss salary increases for firefighters. And while commissioners approved the increase, it still may not be enough to help recruit new volunteers.

Barlet asked that the salary increases for firefighters that were approved in August during the budget discussions be implemented at the next pay period. Even though the raises were discussed and approved when budgets were set, it is required for Barlet to actually come before the commissioners to request the raises.

At present, firefighters are paid $25 for their first three hours on a fire or accident scene and $7.25 per hour after that. The new pay approved by the commissioners on Monday is $30 for the first three hours and $10 per hour. For officers of each station, the call out pay for the first three hours was $30, raised to $35, and their hourly pay of $7.25 was raised to $11.67.

Barlet reminded the commissioners that training pay was also raised and that this would become effective as of Jan. 1. Previously each station was allotted $100 for their monthly training sessions and could be used any way that fire station chose to use it, whether it be for special equipment, coats, hats, shirts, or even a Christmas dinner.

This reimbursement for training sessions had been at the request of the firefighters who periodically are given a questionnaire by the fire board. This past year turnout to trainings has been very low and firefighters requested on the questionnaire that they received the $30 call out fee for attending the meetings. The new pay will start with the January 2022 training meetings and could add about $20,000 to the fire budget depending on how many firefighters show up.

Linn County Commissioner Danny McCullough said these things had already been discussed during the budget process.

Linn County Commissioner Jim Johnson said he did not have a problem with the hourly rate, but the $20,000 a year was a large increase.

Barlet pointed out that the commission had already approved the budget for both the pay increase and the training increase. The commission voted to increase the pay effective immediately and to begin the new training pay on Jan. 1.

McCullough asked if Barlet thought that would help the fire department recruit firefighters. Barlet said there was no way to know if it will work.

Barlet said that the fire board continues to recruit new firefighters but has not had much luck. He said the most effective recruitment has been information put on the message board that the Northeast Region Homeland Security Council had given the county. Information Technology Director Chris Martin had placed the sign in different locations in the county and an ad had been placed on Facebook. He also said that they had bought an ad on Jayhawk-Linn’s sport shirt with the logo of the fire department that says if you would like to volunteer call this phone number.

Barlet also reported to the commissioners that the painting was finished on the Mound City and Pleasanton fire stations but that the other two would have to wait until the temperature warms up in the spring.

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