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Council approves paying firefighters based on calls

By Lori Lindner
North Liberty Leader

NORTH LIBERTY– The North Liberty City Council unanimously approved a resolution on Sept. 10 that creates a new way of compensating the city’s volunteer firefighters.
Currently, firefighters are paid a stipend at the end of each year, ranging from $500 per regular member to $1,500 for officers. The department spends about $22,000 in personnel dollars annually to pay those stipends to firefighters. North Liberty Fire Department (NLFD) Chief Eric Vandewater and assistant chiefs Bryan Hardin and Bill Schmooke proposed a pay-per-call rate of compensation at the council’s Aug. 13 meeting. The pay-per-call system establishes a base rate of pay derived from a member’s length of service and completion of certain levels of training. If the member participates in up to 17.99 percent of all calls, he or she will make one rate of pay, while those who respond to over 18 percent of calls would receive a $1 jump in base pay; per-call rates will increase with the firefighter’s years of service. The proposal also contains a slight bump in base pay for members who earn certain credentials, such as EMS training, for example.
Hardin estimated the new pay-per-call system would require an additional $63,000 per year to implement, which will begin Oct. 1. The extra pay will come out of the department’s capital equipment fund.
Council member Gerry Kuhl said he thinks the pay-per-call system is a great move.
“It will reward people who come to the calls,” Kuhl said. “From my contact with the citizens of North Liberty, they are one hundred percent behind this.”
Schmooke said the system will continue to be monitored to determine whether it achieves the desired outcome of recruiting and retaining volunteers, and rewarding those who sacrifice the most time in responding to calls and participating in community events.
“We are going to be reviewing it on an operational level to make sure it is working and meeting the demands of the city,” said Schmooke. “It will absolutely be reviewed as time goes on.”