It’s one of the most important jobs in Columbia County.
“Firefighters and first responders put their lives on the line every day for us. We have to do everything we can to support them,” said Commissioner Doug Duncan.
Duncan says he was looking through the budget and found that the turnover rate with firefighters was higher than it should be.
The reason: firefighters say it’s Paid Time Off.
Fire Chief Jeremy Wallen says being a firefighter is already a tough job.
“It’s very difficult during this time to keep someone in a job where you miss holidays,nights, weekends, time with that family,” said Wallen.
“A normal employee, staff employee, in two months would accrue twenty four hours which is technically three days for them. It would take a firefighter two months to acquire one day because they work 24 hour shifts,” said Duncan.
To equal things out, the new plan will pay firefighters one and a half times the monthly accrual. Time off accrual for other county employees will remain the same.
That’s good news for Firefighter Kurt Bleemel.
“It’s great because we’re getting more PTO. The way that we work, we work 24 hours on and 48 off. So, the more time we have off with our family, is obviously a great benefit,” said Bleemel.
Duncan says he has first hand experience when it comes to the quality work Columbia County firefighters do.
“My grandson went into a swimming pool a year ago and they were the first responders. They saved his life,” said Duncan.
County leaders are hoping this revamp of Paid Time Off will keep those quality firefighters around to protect the community.
The new PTO standards will take affect April 1.