Moline working to get rid of fire department ‘brownout’ policy

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Moline is trying to phase out a policy that took some fire engines out of service, slowing response times but saving the city money.

The city started a policy 11 months ago called "brownouts." A brownout is when a fire engine is taken out of service for the day; it's a way the city can save money by preventing fire fighters from getting over time, but fire fighters say it also keeps them from doing their jobs.

"It creates a situation where we are short-staffed," said fire fighter Steve Regenwether.

After people brought their concerns to city council the city is now working to get rid of the policy.

"Obviously public safety, fire protection is a priority for the city," said City Administrator, Lew Steinbrecher.

A new policy went into effect at the beginning of the month to pay for three fire fighters for 24 hours each of overtime. That means all four engines will be in service 70 percent of the time.

"We`re willing to pay the overtime to bring back fire fighters who are off duty on overtime so that we can keep that fourth engine in service as much as we possibly can," said Steinbrecher.

The city is also working to fill six vacancies within the department causing so much overtime to rack up. Tuesday night the city approved to fill a position of a retired employee and offers have made for some of the other spots.

"We have made several offers and we`re doing background checks and other evaluations on the perspective employees," said Steinbrecher.

Steinbrecher says once all vacancies are filled all four engines should be in service 99 percent of the time. He expects to have the positions filled by the end of October.


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