NORTH LEWISBURG – The Northeast Champaign County Fire District Board on Monday approved two measures aimed at providing Fire Chief Mike Penhorwood with enough personnel to provide proper fire and EMS services to district residents.
At its August meeting, the board was informed by Penhorwood of the unexpected resignation of full-time firefighter/paramedic Anthony Marrazzi. In response, the board voted to fill Marrazzi’s position – a 24-hour shift every third day – by promoting three part-time paramedics to “permanent part-time paramedics.” The board agreed to have the trio work on a rotating basis through the end of the year at $13 per hour with the understanding that the position could become full time in 2016.
However, upon offering the permanent part-time paramedic position to the three current part-time district employees meeting the criteria of the position, only one – Robert Hall – agreed to fill the new role.
“There is no incentive with part time,” Penhorwood told the board, adding NECCFD has to compete for paramedics with bigger districts that offer full-time positions, higher pay and better facilities.
Board member (Woodstock) Bradley Herron responded to Penhorwood’s concerns by saying, “We just need to figure out how to attract more people as others move on to full-time positions (elsewhere). You can’t blame a guy for taking a full-time position with a union department when they become available.
“We need to fix the housing situation here,” he added. “I think that would be a big help for us if we solve those living quarters issues.”
In hopes of attracting more paramedics to the NECCFD, the board passed a motion allowing Penhorwood to advertise in the local newspapers for permanent part-time paramedics/firefighters.
“We may find that diamond in the rough, sort of speak, that could be the person we want to look at come the first of the year as a full-time hire,” Board member (North Lewisburg) Andy Yoder said.
Penhorwood also added the district is accepting applications for volunteer and part-time firefighters/EMTs through Oct. 9.
Applications for employment at the NECCFD are available at the firehouse, 60 E. Maple St. in North Lewisburg, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Penhorwood addressed the board with another issue he is dealing with concerning the board’s past decision to cap the amount of hours a part-time employee can work per year at less than 1,560.
Yoder said the decision to impose the cap centered around “Obamacare” guidelines regarding whether or not an employee is considered part time or full time for health insurance purposes. By limiting part-time fire district employees to less than 1,560 hours per year, the board assured itself these particular employees would retain “part time” status as outlined in “Obamacare.”
Board member (Wayne Township) Max Perry told Penhorwood that since the 1,560-hour cap was instituted for health insurance purposes only and the board agreed earlier in the year to no longer offer employee health insurance after this year, the hourly stipulation is no longer needed.
The measure Perry was referring to, which was passed by the board in February, calls for a $4 an hour increase in pay for full-time fire district employees once insurance is no longer offered beginning Jan. 1, 2016.
With the rest of the board in agreement with Perry’s take on the matter, a motion was passed allowing Penhorwood to schedule part-time employees to work more than 1,560 hours in a given year.
Also during the meeting, Penhorwood informed the board that part-time firefighter/EMT Ryan Bebout is now a certified paramedic.
Joshua Keeran may be reached at 937-652-1331 (ext. 1774) or on Twitter @UDCKeeran.