“We have done a very, very good job with that program, except it delayed completing tasks, it extended the length to initiate change in a project in the fire department,” Bennett said. “We do things very well but now we can do an extraordinary job overseeing various projects now that we have these 40-hour-a-week employees.”
The changes being made — including increasing the staffing of 17 firefighters per shift from 13 — are because of the 2.5-mill fire levy voters approved last year that adds nearly $2.38 million a year to the fire department budget.
While the new deputy chiefs will have some shared responsibilities in fire prevention, accident investigations and complaint management, McCreadie will oversee fire training and daily operations while Wagner will oversee EMS operations and community relations.
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McCreadie said when adding daily staffing to 17 from 13, it’s important to have the appropriate management staff.
“Chief Bennett’s been doing it by himself since Denny left, and Tom and my roles is … to give the personnel what they need to be successful,” McCreadie said.
Wagner said being able to take back some of those administrative duties from the shift employees “will help better support the line-level people and I think provide a better service to our customers.”
“It also is going to allow people below us to promote up. I think that gives people motivation to want to take fire officer classes,” he said.
Bennett said the department is “under the clock” to hire the four firefighters with the SAFER grant, which will allow the department to “bank” the money it would pay to hire four new firefighters. A new firefighter hire will cost the city between $102,000 to $115,000, which the first year of the SAFER grant will pay for 75 percent of that cost, which includes insurance and equipment.