By SCOTT MILLER
Two overtime firefighters rather than three will man the Mehlville Fire Protection District’s heavy rescue squad for a savings of about $98,000.
The district’s Board of Directors approved the deal last week to keep the squad operational full time while firefighters take va-cations and the district searches for up to 13 new hires.
The cost to pay overtime to two firefighters is roughly $41,824 through July 1, when the additional personnel may board ship.
The other option to maintain full-time operation of the squad cost about $140,071 for three overtime firefighters, according to information from Comptroller Jeff Geisler. The money is included in this year’s budget.
“I know that we’re going to have discussions on a later date on how it should be manned, but I think for the interim, my preference would be that we go ahead and get the squad serviced right away and minimize our cost with the two firefighters,” board Secretary David Gralike said.
“Those were similar to my thoughts,” Chairman Tom O’Driscoll said. “It’s my understanding that the (rescue) squad is generally on the street as a second vehicle in on a call rather than the first one (dispatched).”
Treasurer Dan Ottoline Sr. was absent from the Feb. 28 meeting.
The rescue squad will be based at the No. 5 Engine House at 11020 Mueller Road in Green Park and primarily offer additional manpower for heavy rescues, such as extricating trapped motorists after vehicle accidents.
“The majority of times they are the only ones that will be stationed here,” Chief Ray Haddock told board members, “but they are actually kind of like the specialized truck that comes on for highway calls and fires to bring (heavy rescue) specialty and any additional manpower we have at that time.”
And the district is looking for additional manpower. The board-approved expenditures to maintain full-time operation of the squad as well as the district’s fifth ambulance expire on July 1, when new hires could be ready to work.
Hiring firefighters and paramedics is a lengthy process, so the district needs to begin advertising and accepting applications soon.
Haddock presented a preliminary timeline to the board last week for hiring up to 13 new firefighters and paramedics. Of those posts, six existing firefighters are eligible for retirement, he said, but likely won’t take it, driving down the number of hires needed.
Four paramedics constitute the remaining hires. The board Feb. 14 voted unanimously to pay roughly $91,000 for two overtime paramedics to operate the fifth ambulance full-time through July 1, when four new paramedics could be hired. That money also is budgeted.
Advertising for the positions could begin in mid-March, he said, with applications being accepted from April 21 to April 25, followed by written testing.
“This is all tentative because things are all subject to change and it’s up to the board,” Haddock said. “We’re looking at the earlier part of March, maybe March 10 to March 20, to look at advertising. That would go on basically for two full weekends.
“With that in mind,” he continued, “then we would put the notification out that we would accept applications in the week of April 21 to 25. We’re thinking it could be between 200, 250 applications. I would think it could be that many. Last time it was that many.”
After testing, the top 15 applicants will interview with the Board of Directors, Haddock said, and then take an agility test.
The board could offer employment by June 20 and announce the new hires on July 5 or July 11, according to a tentative hiring timeline provided by the district.