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Buckhannon Council votes for part-time firefighter positions

The Inter-Mountain photo by Amanda Hayes Buckhannon Fire Department Chief J.B. Kimble speaks to Buckhannon City Council.

BUCKHANNON — Buckhannon City Council voted to create part-time firefighter positions with the Buckhannon Fire Department that could help add manpower when needed. The proposal will still need to be presented to the West Virginia Home Rule Board.

The part-time firefighters would be non-civil service and will provide supplemental coverage for the BFD during high-demand periods such as community events, low volunteer staffing times, fire prevention presentations, public service requests and other times.

However, the part-time firefighters would also respond to fires, accidents, medical emergencies and other calls for service.

BFD Chief J.B. Kimble told the council Thursday that he and city attorney Tom O’Neill finalized a job description that was included in the council packet.

“When hiring someone into that part-time position, they need to meet at the least the minimum requirements of our paid staff,” Kimble said.

That means the applicant must complete Firefighter 1, hazardous materials operations, be CPR certified and be an EMT as well as have completed several classes in the National Incident Management System.

All paid firefighters with the Buckhannon Fire Departments are also EMTs.

Kimble said the person hired would also need to go through the BFD mentor program.

Councilman C.J. Rylands voted to bring the job description to the table, seconded by city recorder Randy Sanders and the discussion continued with council members.

Councilman Robbie Skinner said, “It’s my belief that we should where we are with the SAFER grant before we go down this road. If the SAFER grant will award us three [firefighter positions], our minimum staff requirements will be met with two. I think we should wait and see what happens with that before we make any decisions moving forward.”

Kimble said he expects to hear from the SAFER grant this month. If approved, the grant would provide funding for three full-time firefighter positions with the funding being adjusted over a period until the City of Buckhannon bears the cost.

Kimble said the part-time firefighter could be a tool and suggested there may be a need in the future for n administrative person to assist with the Buckhannon Fire Department’s accreditation process.

Captain Joey Baxa is the accreditation manager and Kimble said he spends six hours with Baxa on his shifts working on accreditation materials.

This is difficult when Baxa must leave to respond to five to seven calls a day sometimes.

Mayor David McCauley pointed to the fact that the SAFER grant had not been awarded and that council must still find funding for the positions.

McCauley said, “I don’t think it’s a foregone conclusion that we are going to get the SAFER grant. Council will still have to approve a financial model to make this work.”

He pointed to the Buckhannon Police Department using a part-time police officer, Tanner Collins. Collins came to the BPD as an already certified law enforcement officer with the DNR and picks up shifts when needed with the department.

Skinner and Kimble also pointed out that under fire civil service laws, the time has to be offered to full-time firefighters before the part-time firefighter could be utilized.

After more discussion, the motion passed.

McCauley said afterwards that the application must be sent to the home rule board with a proposed ordinance.

If the home rule board approves it, it will then be sent back to the Buckhannon City Council which must then go through an ordinance process.

“My position has been we were the first city to do it relative to the police,” he said. “It has been a highly successful model and there is no reason it shouldn’t prove successful for our fire department.”

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