Bryan City Council Hears Request For Additional Firefighting Personnel

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At the November 21 regular meeting of the Bryan City Council, Bruce Siders, the Chief of the Bryan Fire Department, used a historical narrative and a fact-filled PowerPoint presentation to request of Council the addition of two new firefighters to his staff.

“Since 1857, the City of Bryan Fire Department has relied on a combination of career and volunteer firefighters in keeping the residents and visitors safe from the ravages of fire,” Chief Siders said in his presentation. “Throughout the 159 years of the Department’s existence, we have seen a rise and fall of volunteer firefighters. However, today like never before, we see a dramatic decline on the availability of people willing to commit to the volunteer fire service. This reduction in available volunteers puts the department in a position where we are not able to respond with the appropriate resources and manpower. This inability to respond with the appropriate resources and manpower places our citizens and our firefighters at a great risk.”

Breaking down the historical personnel perspective from the last twenty years, Chief Siders continued, “In 1997, Chief Robinson penned a letter to then Mayor Runkle and the members of city council describing a decline of available volunteers. In that letter, Chief Robinson stated that the daytime availability of volunteers was severely hampered during the week, Monday through Friday. In 2004 Chief Manon performed a manpower study, and showed that the department continued in its decline of available volunteers. This time however, we started to see a decline not only in weekday response, but we also started to see a decline in weekend availability. In 2014, Council authorized the hiring of two additional career firefighters to help with the daytime call volume. While this assisted with the Monday through Friday calls, we are still seeing a decline in weekend availability.”

As it currently stands, there are four firefighters on duty from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday, with no weekends and no holidays. Chief Siders proposed a plan with two firefighters on duty from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. seven days per week, with two additional firefighters on duty Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. The breakdown of the cost to the city per firefighter is an annual gross wage of $27,300, plus $18,648.24 for insurance, $6,552 for a retirement plan, $395.85 for Medicare, and $546 for workers compensation, bringing the total annual cost incurred by the City of Bryan, per firefighter, to $53,442.09.

Council agreed with the assessment, and agreed to look into the matter. The main issue will be funding, to which Council President Tommy Morr said, “We’ve got to find a fix, but we’ve got to find the money.”

In other actions undertaken by Council on the evening, Ordinance 47-2016 was approved under suspended rules of reading, authorizing a change order for the 2016 Pavement Marking Program that will reduce the overall costs by $12,477.21.

Under suspended rules of reading, Council approved the passages of Resolution 29-2016, and Resolution 30-2016, both of which are measures designed to take control of long inactive, leftover funds. The first measure sought to return funds totaling $65,937.42 to the One Percent Income Tax Fund from the Don North Municipal Building Debt Retirement Fund, which has had all outstanding obligations retired since 2013. The second measure sought to transfer funds totaling $11,212.57 to the 1/2 Percent Income Tax fund from the Special Assessment Bond Fund. That money remains from the issuance of bonds in 1990 for a street light, as well as an East End Sewer Project that was completed in 1994, and all obligations cleared in 2009.

In keeping with the May 18, 2016, revision of the overtime exemption rule of the Fair Labor Standards Act, Council agreed to proposed wage increases for three city employees: Assistant Street Commissioner Tim Sands, Assistant Parks and Recreation Director Bruce Wheeler, and Fire Department Captain Gary Merschdorf.

Council approved two building permit requests on this evening, the first being petitioned by Jack’s Sew and Vac of 122 North Main Street.

The business has acquired the adjacent storefront, and sought permission for a proposed $17,500 project to combine the two storefronts.

The second permit was granted to Community Health Professionals, who are planning on the construction of a new $2.16 million, 8,200 square foot facility at 1215 South Portland Street.

Timothy Kays can be reached at tim@thevillagereporter.com

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