Firefighters turned up at special council meetings this week in Yellowknife, where councillors were discussing the 2018 draft budget, and whether to put off hiring four new firefighters.
In 2016, the Yellowknife Fire Division’s Master Plan, which was produced by a Calgary consulting firm over several months, called on the city to hire eight new firefighters, five dispatchers and an administrative assistant to address understaffing, prevent burnout and deal with the escalation of calls for paramedics.
The City of Yellowknife reached a compromise, hiring four additional firefighters this year, with the intention of hiring another four in October 2018. However, that second hire has been put on hold until January 2019 in the current draft budget.
On Monday, Coun. Shauna Morgan questioned the decision to hold off on hiring at the department, which she said is “desperately understaffed.” She brought forward a motion to include the four hires in the 2018 budget.
“To me, it’s still concerning that we’re playing catch-up on an absolutely critical emergency service,” she said.
“I would like to see us bump up these new hires and get some support to the division as soon as we can.”
3 month delay saves $93K
The city’s senior administrative officer, Sheila Bassi-Kellett, said holding off on hiring four new members for three months will save the administration approximately $93,000.
She also says firefighters who joined the team this year may need more time to train.
“They started with us over the summer,” Bassi-Kellet said.
“We want to make sure they’re fully integrated into the fire department. Bringing too many new staff on within a very … close window of time can be a challenge to the stability of the fire department.
“So we are thinking in terms of trying to sequence this in a way that’s going to be as constructive as possible.”
Morgan expressed concerns that if hiring is put off again, the hiring process could take months, or the issue could…