A program to help pay Peachtree City volunteer firefighters expenses will have its maximum cap raised from $3,000 to $4,500 for this budget year.
The stipend program allows volunteers to be compensated $10 for each call they answer, each training event they attend and each time they performa four hour shift of station duty, in which they respond to all necessary calls with no further compensation.
The program has been very successful as some volunteers serve station duty every third day just like regular career firefighters serve their 24 hour shifts every three days, said Fire Chief Ed Eiswerth.
It was also noted that the city often hires its career firefighters from the ranks of the volunteer force.
Assistant Fire Chief Joe O’Conor said the idea for the program was to help volunteer firefighters pay for gas, food, babysitters and other costs incurred by their volunteer duties.
The fire department had requested the stipend cap be raised to $6,000, but council balked after Mayor Harold Logsdon worried it would affect next year’s budget. After some hushed discussion away from their microphones, and a failed motion to change the cap to $6,000, council voted unanimously to raise it to $4,500 instead.
A total of 18 volunteer firefighters hit the $3,000 cap last year, fire officials said. The department currently has 53 volunteer firefighters and another new class will begin training in January.
O’Conor noted that the presence of the volunteer firefighters allowed the city to be credited with nearly 4 extra firefighters per shift in the recent evaluation by the Insurance Services Organization. That evaluation allowed the city’s rating to be lowered, which should result in many residents saving on their insurance policies.
Without the volunteers, the city would have to spend about $600,000 a year to hire nearly 12 full-time firefighters to get the same result, officials pointed out in a memo to the City Council.