Finance Committee Approves Additional Firefighters | WSAU News/Talk 550AM 99.9FM

Wausau Fire Department. CMM photo by Mike Leischner.

WAUSAU, WI (WSAU) — Wausau’s finance committee on Tuesday approved the spending of ARPA dollars to boost the city’s fire department.

Fire Chief Bob Barteck said the move will help him kick off his plan to expand the department, something that hasn’t been done in 50 years as the city has grown, the number of calls have increased and the department has taken on additional responsibilities. .

“The department is completely different from what we were in 1970,” Barteck said. “We now run the nation at the paramedic level, we are a HAZMAT asset of the state, we are not even a reflection of what we were [back then.]”

During the same period, the city’s police department grew by 40%.

He says additional staff will also help the department with their upcoming ISO classification and other benchmarks. “It is critical that we move forward and start funding these positions.

The chief adds that it is appropriate to use the COVID recovery funds to create the positions, because while everyone was encouraged to stay at home, his staff had to stay at work and, in some cases, go directly to situations where the virus was present.

Using ARPA dollars will also give the city time to absorb salaries into the budget over a two-year period.

Barteck has requested more staff since taking over as chief last year. The city is currently waiting to see if its application for funding to cover nine additional firefighter/paramedic positions under FEMA’s Adequate Fire and Emergency Response Staffing Program will also be approved.

RELATED: Wausau Fire Department will apply for grants for additional firefighters

In addition to meeting industry standards and providing better service when needed, Barteck says department staff have been strained by mandatory overtime and limited paid time off opportunities; meaning positions could also help retain staff through improved morale.