Twenty-nine of Racine's 144 firefighters will be eligible to retire next year, but only four or five are planning to leave, Fire Chief Steve Hansen told the Police and Fire Commission this week.
"They're sticking around and contributing to the community," said Hansen, adding: "That's a good thing for the department."
But it also means a great deal of turnover is coming. Fortunately, there appear to be enough people looking for firefighter jobs. The department received 228 applicants for its current openings, Hansen said.
The department is holding its physical ability test on June 12-13. Everyone who passes that test will take a written test in August.
PHOENIX (NOT) RISING: The city's Phoenix records system, used to track police and fire data, ran into some problems in recent months. The errors were so bad Hansen couldn't compile a monthly report for the commission. "We're still verifying information," he said. The good news: recent upgrades to the system seem to be working better.
JOINT SERVICE: The city and Mount Pleasant are starting to talk about joint responses along their shared borders, Hansen said. The talks are preliminary, but could result in village firefighters and paramedics responding to calls in the city. Mount Pleasant officials have long wanted to be able to handle calls at Regency Mall - a property that's in the city, but about a block from the village's fire department.
"It's just an exploratory issue," Hansen said.
NORTH BAY: The Village of North Bay's fire contract with Caledonia is coming up soon, and the city will make another bid to bring the village back under its coverage, Hansen said. North Bay dumped the city as its fire service provider a few years ago after it felt slighted in negotiations over an expansion of the sewer plant. They went with Caledonia, even though a city fire station is closer. The contract is up at the end of the year, Hansen told the commission.
"It just makes sense," he said. "It's a common sense thing."
VIDEO CONFERENCE: Rising gas prices could lead to the rise in a new technology: video conferencing. Hansen said the fire department is already using video conferencing for training between its own fire stations, and to bring in trainers from outside communities.
"It (video conferencing) gives us a much bigger world," he said.
FITNESS TEST: Here's an interesting idea: Appleton pays its firefighters 1-2 percent of their gross wages to pass an annual agility test. The commission liked the idea as a way of keeping firefighters in shape. Hansen noted the department is already bringing in a coordinated wellness program.