Various city departments began submitting 2020 budget proposals updates to the city council during an executive session last month.
The Page Fire Department last Wednesday submitted their updated projections to show city officials what they need to effectively do their job. To much surprise the biggest request was made to the public for interest in becoming a recruit.
Fire Chief Jeff Reed began his presentation with a list of the paid positions: the fire chief, three captains, two engineers, twelve firefighters, and several reserved part-time firefighters. Every staff member is dual-trained as an emergency medical technician.
The 2019 personnel budget is $1,079,680 and the 2020 budget is estimated to be $1,061,759, down 1.7 percent. Reed said the main reason for the drop in the salary budget is the lack of personnel to keep the 2019 budget.
Reed said the public’s lack of interest in becoming a firefighter/EMT in the rural area of Page was only part of the problem.
The subject of the salary that Page firefighters actually make is $53,000. In-house promotion was the only way to give the current staff incentive to stay and moving the part time to full time, but overall the agency still needs more trained staff.
Councilor Theresa Bowlby asked if the agency had considered high school student recruitment.Reed explained the police department’s Explorer Program offers an internship to students who volunteer during the summer.
Reed also went on to explain all the job fairs, school assemblies, and open house meet-and-greets with the public was only a fraction of what the fire department is doing to recruit.
Another part of the fire department budget proposal was the increase in the costs of medical supplies ($40,000- $45,000), equipment ($5000-$7000), contract services ($114,000-$125,400), and training expenses ($52,000-$60,000).
With EMT services as the greater need in the small population of 7,200, plus the millions of tourist that visit, supplies and equipment must be replenished or replaced on a regular schedule.
With the contract services, communication access, the need to repair equipment – because they do not have enough gear for the staff, the revenue has been depleted by $850,000.
With several options for new contract services next year Reed is hoping that that dollar amount will lessen by 2020.
City Manager Michael Celaya assured the councilors that the finance officer for the city was looking into the contract services.
Training costs rose due to the closure of the EMT training facility in Salt Lake City on July 1, 2018.
The facility was not only a close-by and an affordable facility, but also mandatory to attend for re-certification.
The facility catered to all of Arizona’s EMT and was considered to be one of the best facilities in the nation.
The closest training facility is located in Fort Worth, Texas, forcing the training expense budget to increase.
“Everybody [in Arizona] was impacted by the closure at Salt Lake, it’s unfortunate. Now we have to go to Fort Worth,” said Reed. “It’s not an easy fix.”
Reed also explained the rating for the overall fire department’s Insurance Service Office is at five, according to a study done in February. The rating was based on a number between 1-10, with 1 being the best rating and 10 being an unrecognized system.
The study scored protection of community, staff availability, call response, 911 and water systems. Reed explained the No. 5 rating was justified by the old fire station on Navajo Drive.
Reed would feel confident if staff increases or if another garage could be open near or at the airport to decrease response time. The No. 5 rating could drop another point or two considering the population and call ratio.
Vice Mayor John Kojan and Councilor Dennis Warner both expressed how lucky that the city was to have highly educated firefighters.
“We don’t have many fires, but we have medical and we are very fortunate to have… that [emergency response] structure here,” Warner said.