Fire chief plans to ask city for additional personnel funding

Wednesday, June 2, 2010 | 7:32 p.m. CDT; updated 11:31 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, June 2, 2010

COLUMBIA — The Columbia Fire Department is facing ongoing personnel issues as four firefighter positions remain unfilled. The city has authorized the positions, but they remain unfunded.

A document prepared by the department says that 42 people are required per shift to provide adequate staffing. Minimum staffing requirements call for three firefighters on each of the nine fire engines and two trucks, a two-man squad car and two chief officers, for a total of 37 people.

At present, only 40 positions are authorized and funded.

According to preliminary materials prepared for this weekend's City Council retreat, Fire Chief Bill Markgraf plans to ask the city to create two new positions in addition to funding the four vacant jobs. This would allow the department to keep overtime costs down and and let individual firefighters take leave for injuries, military duty and additional training.

A second document estimates savings associated with the vacant positions at $230,000, putting the average salary for the four jobs at $57,500.

Station 2, located at the fire station at 1212 W. Worley St., was shut down for 15 full days and six half days because of staffing shortages in February, March and April. Overtime costs for keeping the state open during that time amounted to $15,000.

City Manager Bill Watkins declared public safety improvements one of his primary goals during his State of the City address on Wednesday.

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