Pella Chronicle

Local News

December 28, 2012

Hazmat response team dominates EMC discussion

(Continued)

Knoxville —

The proposed pay scale Anderson presented the commission included $16-21 per hour for training for a team leader ($15-20 for a hazmat technician) and $22-27 an hour for responses by team leaders ($21-26 for technicians). 

Knoxville Interim Fire Chief Greg Higginbotham indicated those wages may not be enough. He believes pay needs to be higher to make it worth the team members' while. Anderson and the commission asked Higginbotham, and other firefighters present, to talk to their departments to make a pay recommendation. 

Hazmat team members would be required to take 40 hours of training in the first year. Annual training after that would be 24 hours. It is still unclear whether or not this would be 24 hours in addition to training hours firefighters already take. 

Higginbotham indicated that Knoxville's next, permanent fire chief, Nick Bonstall, supports a lot of training. Bonstall currently works with the Grand Rapids, Mich., hazmat response team and will be a member of the Marion County team when he arrives. Bonstall, though not expected to start his job in Knoxville until February, is in constant communication with Anderson and Higginbotham. 

The costs of training, and the team overall, was questioned by Knoxville Assistant City Manager Dylan Feik. Anderson said the final structure, of how to pay for the team, is still open for discussion. He encouraged Feik and other municipal representatives present to talk with their respective city councils about what they would like to pay. Currently, Emergency Management receives funding through grants and the General Supplemental Fund levy in the county. Every property taxpayer in the county pays this levy. 

There will also be costs for equipment. Firefighters are expected to discuss what they will need for the team and bring back recommendations. Anderson expects the team's equipment will be minimal, given the support of Jasper County and its resources and equipment. 

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