North Liberty Council Votes in Favor of Pay-Per-Call Program for Firefighters

By Jill Kasparie, Reporter

NORTH LIBERTY, Iowa - The North Liberty Fire Department got the official go-ahead for a new payment program for its volunteer firefighters.

Members were getting a yearly stipend of $500, no matter how much each person participated in emergency calls or public appearances. In the next few weeks, the department will roll out a pay-per-call program.

The 33 firefighters might need to respond to an emergency at any time in the growing city.

"We ran 885 calls last year," said North Liberty Fire Department Assistant Fire Chief Bill Schmooke. "That was up 25 percent from the previous year. We are looking to probably run 1,000 calls this year."

Tuesday night, the city opted to show support for their work.

"The motion passes," said North Liberty Mayor Tom Salm during the council meeting.

The council officially voted in favor of the new pay-per-call program. Each time a crew member goes out the door to answer a call for service, the firefighter will get paid. Assistant Fire Chief Bill Schmooke said they could earn anywhere from $6.25 to $16.25 for each response.

"The longer the firefighter is on North Liberty Fire, and the more credentials and more training they have, the more base pay they are going to get," said Assistant Fire Chief Schmooke said.

The city administrator said the new plan will help with the department's recruitment efforts. The $63,000 needed for the program will come out of a fund that's typically used to purchase fire equipment.

"By funding a program like this, we would have to reduce the amount that we fund for capital equipment, and then ultimately money needed for trucks and larger equipment we'd have to find a revenue source elsewhere. Most likely in the form of borrowing," said North Liberty City Administrator Ryan Heiar.

Department officials hope the payments will encourage new firefighters to sign up and current volunteers to stay longer, especially as volunteer departments across the nation struggle to get good help.

"I'd like to stay ahead of the trend of it being more and more difficult to gain volunteer firefighters, so by following through with the pay-per-call, we feel that it would stay ahead of that potential problem," Assistant Fire Chief Schmooke said.

The pay-per-call program will go into effect on Oct. 1.
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