Brookfield Township officials hope an increase in the holiday pay for part-timers will help attract more people to work those shifts in the police and fire departments, and maybe for other shifts as well.
But, getting part-timers to work any shifts, let alone holidays, is a struggle for both departments. and Fire Chief David Masirovits said the township could be promising residents more than it has the ability to deliver.
On Aug. 5, trustees allowed part-time firefighters and police officers to be paid time and a half for working Memorial Day, July 4th, Labor Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day.
Regular part-time pay for firefighters is between $10.15 and $12 an hour, depending on medical certification, and part-time police officers make between $10.50 and $12.50 an hour, depending on years of service.
Just paying regular pay to part-timers on holidays “seems to have some effect on the staffing for the holidays,” Masirovits said.
“It’s a struggle just getting part-time people out to work and not having anything for them, especially with the competition between departments just to attract part-time members to your safety forces,” Police Chief Dan Faustino said. “It’s something to help us out and to hopefully make it a little bit easier, making sure that we have proper coverage for the safety on the holidays.”
In many cases, full-timers ask not to be scheduled on holidays and, if part-timers are not found to handle those shifts, full-timers are brought in at time and a half, costing the department more than if part-timers would work.
Faustino estimated the increased part-time pay on holidays will cost him an extra $600 a year.
promoThe trustees, effective July 1, increased the regular part-time pay for firefighters and police officers, one of several steps to try to attract more workers, but the fire department’s staffing remains below expectations most days.
Masirovits regularly closes Station 51 on Addison Road when he can’t get enough people to cover a shift. In July, it was closed 44 out of 62 12-hour shifts.
“We have to do something,” said Trustee Dan Suttles. “I’m concerned because we’re not providing the protection to a large amount of our population that we’ve discussed that that station addresses on a first-do assignment.”
Masirovits said he doesn’t know what else he can do.
“We have lifted 1,500-hour (work) limit,” he said. “We have basically allowed them to work as many shifts as they want, and divide it up however they want. They don’t just have to work 12- and 24-hour shifts. If somebody wants to work four hours, come on in. If somebody wants to work eight, come on in. We’ve given them raises.”
Some days, there are only two people working in the fire department, Masirovits said. A full complement is five, which allows the department to run two ambulances.
Suttles suggested supporting training for part-timers as an incentive, but Masirovits said the department has done that. He noted there is a balancing act, because he has full-timers who have been denied training because it’s not in the budget, but he also said that the kinds of training options that might be of interest to part-timers are not available.
“They don’t want to be a paramedic,” Masirovits said. “They don’t want to be a fire inspector. Where do you even find rope classes? Auto extrication?”
Suttles said the township is obligated to have five workers on a shift and both Station 51 and the main Station 18 on Route 7 open.
“We’re receiving tax levies to do that, and we need to make sure that we’re fulfilling the promise and the financial support that we’re getting from our community,” Suttles said.
“I wholeheartedly agree,” Masirovits said, but added: “Have we bitten off more than we can chew? We have this huge area to protect and we’ve promised 51’s district, 18’s district, Hartford’s district, but we don’t have the people to do it.”