SWEETWATER COUNTY — The Sweetwater County Fire Department will begin advertising for 14 seasonal firefighter positions following unanimous Sweetwater County Commission approval.
The fire department will be looking to fill two 9-month positions, eight 6-month positions, and four 3-month positions. Sweetwater County Fire Warden Mike Bournazian said the fire department is already behind schedule in terms of advertising for the firefighters.
“We’re already behind and a lot of the federal agencies are starting to close their application period,” Bournazian said.
The approval to begin advertising for the positions follows a discussion that took place at the last Commission meeting, in which the Commission said they want to evaluate the fire department to look for more efficiencies.
Commissioner Mary Thoman said in December that she wanted to hold off on hiring firefighters until the Commission has had an opportunity to analyze the fire department and search for cost savings.
“Looking down the road, we’re having to figure out how to become more streamlined, more efficient, and I would just ask for that, and to hold off on hiring any more additional staff until we determine exactly how we want to move forward,” Thoman said in December.
The Commission has started a committee to work with the fire department and seek cost-saving solutions, but in the meantime, Commissioner Randy “Doc” Wendling said they need firefighters even as they search for solutions.
“There’s going to be a transition period in which we’re still going to have to fight fires,” Wendling said in December. “We have no plan B at this point in time… I just don’t see how we can step back and take the risk of not providing public safety for our residents in the county.”
Bournazian said he is open to alternatives to how many seasonal employees they should have and for what length of time they should hire seasonal firefighters with the assistance of the Commission. However, he said that they need to start advertising for firefighters, and then they can start looking at next steps.
“We need to advertise our seasonals… so we can start receiving applications,” he said.
The anticipated cost for the 14 positions is about $275,000, whereas last hires costed roughly $254,000. Bournazian said the difference in cost comes from the cost of health care going up. He said they have to offer the 9-month firefighters health care.
The Sweetwater County Fire Department has received approval to start advertising for seasonal positions, however, they will still need to receive further approval before making hires.