Martinsville to create eligibility pool to help attract part-time firefighters

By Colter Anstaett - Southside Bureau Reporter

MARTINSVILLE (WSLS 10) - The city of Martinsville has essentially created a formal waiting list for firefighter applicants.

With the fire department's budget constraints, attracting firefighters when needed could be hard, so the city hopes the eligibility pool will be a proactive way to combat that problem.

With the budget reduction this fiscal year and more potential budget reductions in the upcoming fiscal year, the department doesn't necessarily have the money to hire full-time firefighters, which is why the department is looking for part-time ones.

"Part-time guys are a little less expensive. We don't have to pay the benefits and so forth as we would for a normal full-time staff," explained Kris Schrader, Martinsville's deputy fire chief.

Because of the budget reduction this year, the fire department has reduced the number of full-time firefighters per shift to the department's absolute minimum of six.

The department then uses one part-time firefighter to increase the total number of firefighters per shift to seven.

But with the budget being so tight already and potentially getting even tighter next year, if part-time firefighters can't be found, the department will have to operate at the minimum of six total firefighters per shift.

"I don't know if we'll ever get to the point of dropping below the minimum of six career staff. We've tried, with volunteers, to offset staffing so I don't know if we'll ever get to that point. But, we do have to rely on them enough that it is important to have a fairly large pool," Schrader emphasized.

The city hopes that by essentially creating a formal waiting list in the form of an eligibility pool, people will be more encouraged to apply knowing that they can essentially get in line and thereby create that fairly large pool that the fire department needs.

"We can basically tap them on the shoulder, give them a call, and say 'Hey, we have an opening, why don't you come on,'" explained Martinsville City Manager Wayne Knox.

He added that this is similar to what other departments have and the city has consulted with other departments to find out what works and what doesn't when it comes to creating an eligibility pool.

"Similar to a lot of agencies whereby you have a list of people who have shown that they are interested. I think also while they're on that waiting list they work to get some of their certifications" Knox said.

The fire department is currently looking to hire between five and eight firefighters.

The city still has a little planning to do, but hopes to have the eligibility pool officially created by the end of the year.

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