Mo. fire chief considers new hiring policy after station approval

By Koby Levin
The Joplin Globe

CARTHAGE, Mo. — Now that the City Council has accepted a bid for construction of a new fire station of the south side of town, the panel will review a new hiring policy for firefighters.

The $1.5 million project will be undertaken by Crossland Construction of Columbus, Kansas, after receiving final approval from the council last week.

It caps a nearly 20-year march toward a new station, which was spurred on by development on the southern edge of town.

Chief Roger Williams said the new station at 3000 S. Main St. will reduce emergency response times and insurance rates for property owners within 5 miles of the site.

It will be paid for with proceeds of a quarter-cent sales tax, which voters approved in 2011 on the promise of a southern substation and new firefighting equipment.

Since then, the city evaluated several potential sites, including a property near the high school that didn't meet the department's needs. Precious Moments Motel donated land for the project on the condition that development took place within five years, and when the city budget didn't make room for the construction, the land was returned.

"This has been a long time coming," Williams said.

The new building will sit on roughly 2 acres that were donated in 2014 by First Bank and Trust Company of Lubbock, Texas, which acquired the property as part of a commercial development that went into foreclosure.

The three-bay structure will be staffed by three firefighters at first, with plans for more hires later on, Williams said. Three trucks will be housed at the substation along with other equipment.

The sales tax will continue to generate funds for the department until 2031. In 2017, the city budgeted $556,000 in revenues from the tax.

In preparation for the opening this fall of the new substation, the council next week will consider a measure to expand the hiring footprint of the fire department. Department employees currently must live within the city limits.

With the council's approval, people who live within 15 miles of the main fire station, 401 W. Chestnut St., will be able to apply for jobs as the department expands.

If the measure is adopted, "the pool that I would have for hiring folks would expand by quite a bit," Williams said. "It's getting harder and harder to get candidates."

The Carthage Fire Protection District extends 10 miles from the main fire station at most.

The rule limiting new hires to city residents seems designed in part to ensure that firefighters live near the station and can arrive at work quickly in an emergency, but the fire district's borders provide an uneven standard, said Jason Shelfer, Ward 5 council member and a member of the Public Safety Committee.

The new measure will be introduced for a first council reading at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 6.

"Everything seems to be going toward the south end of town," Shelfer said. "That's important to our future. It's time to get some infrastructure in that area."

Proposed territory

If the City Council agrees to expand the Carthage Fire Department's hiring area, anyone who lives within 15 miles of its main station at 401 W. Chestnut St. will be able to apply for a job. That area includes a large portion of Jasper County that takes in Duenweg, Duquesne, Webb City, Oronogo, areas of northern Newton County and much of Joplin.

Copyright 2018 The Brunswick News

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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