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Paying volunteer firefighters would help recruitment, Mendon chief says

March 20th, 2011 Posted in Opinion

By Teresa Nield

MENDON — Where are the volunteers when you need them? Mendon’s fire chief presented a proposal to the City Council recently to answer that very question.

Fire Chief Ray Olsen informed the council that he is very proud of Mendon’s volunteer fire department. However, despite his pride, Olsen expressed concern that the fire department is in crisis. He told the council the department’s retention and recruitment are declining.

Olsen provided several reasons why volunteerism is so low. “Time or lack thereof is a big issue,” he said.

Olsen also presented a possible solution. He left a proposal for the council to consider that would allow the city to begin to pay its volunteers. The pay would give volunteer EMTs and volunteer firemen $100 per year for each position, plus an extra amount per hours worked. This amount would fluctuate depending on the number of certifications each volunteer has completed.

Olsen said he believed the pay would bring in more volunteers to cover the average of 1.9 calls per week that the department responds to. He said he was not asking for more money to pay the volunteers, but believed he could cover the pay with the budget the department is already allowed.

Olsen presented figures to the council and showed them that, after basing his projections on 2010 and 2009’s call volume, he would only need 14 percent of the fire department’s budget to cover the pay.

The council discussed the proposal and tagged it onto the agenda for April’s city council meeting to come to a vote. Ciouncilman Kelly Barrett said, “I’m certainly not opposed to it.”

In other business, Mayor Ed Buist discussed the future budget that is currently a work in progress. Buist stressed the necessity of setting aside more money for a city building and asked that they put a discussion on the agenda for next month to plan a meeting for the city building’s site, fund raising and related items.


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