As the Milton Fire Department is looking at possibly merging with the Janesville Fire Department, Milton Battalion Chief Chris Lukas said something needs to be done in the interim. Specifically, he wants to see pay increased for firefighters and EMS members making $10.
Preliminary 2021 budget conversations show increasing pay from $10 to $15 per an hour would increase the budget by $160,000 per year.
“I don’t know where we could find that money,” said Ernie Rhodes, who is chief of the Janesville and Milton fire departments.
He emphasized, “If we do this, we have to sustain it.”
Lukas urged the commission to “take care of the people that are here right now doing the job.”
“We’re noticing scheduling gaps. We’re losing people,” he said.
Prior to possibly merging with Janesville, Milton City Finance Director Dan Nelson asked the commission if it wanted to start sharing costs based on equalized value with its contracted towns (Harmony, Johnstown, Koshkonong, Lima).
Contracts with the towns are set to expire at the end of the year.
Nelson said he hated to use the word “fair,” but said it comes down to everyone paying their fair share for the service provided.
Rhodes said, “We need to find a way to pay our people because at the end of the day, the most important thing is that a fire truck or an ambulance is fully staffed.”
As chief, he said “there’s ways to more money in the budget.” For instance, Rhodes said the commission could cancel the contract with Janesville for him to be the chief.
“I’m absolutely willing to give up my position to get our people more money,” he said.
Lukas said he would retire at the end of the year, if it would help.
Commission member Lynda Clark said, “I don’t think it’s necessary for us to look at taking positions away.”
The fire commission will meet again at 6 p.m. on Sept. 24 to discuss potential increases in town contracts and the impact of $15 an hour on the 2020 and 2021 budgets.
Paramedics, who are paid to be at the station, receive $17 per hour. Lukas clarified the $15 per hour would be for people taking out the engine or back-up ambulance. Lastly, he said the paid on call wage is based on a point system. "It was $7,000 a month, now it's $3,500 a month," he said. Members get points for per call, then the $3,500 per month is split up among the members based on the points.