Crews from the Wausau Fire Department responding to a call on Curling Way, on May 21, 2020. Photo: Wausau Pilot & Review

Damakant Jayshi

The City Council on Tuesday approved a request from the Wausau Fire Department to hire three additional entry-level additional firefighter-paramedics by using ARPA funds.

After an earnest plea from Wausau Fire Chief Robert Barteck, the council approved a recommendation from the Finance Committee for positions beginning July 1.

Barteck told Council members that department’s staffing situation is so dire that they had to impose mandatory overtime on firefighters to ensure public safety. The chief said this is the right time for recruitment because candidates typically graduate from technical college programs and enter the job market in May and June.

In a news release, Wausau Fire officials said the three hires will restore the department to operational staffing levels established in 1970.

The Wausau Fire Department aims to add 12 positions and has applied for FEMA’s SAFER grant for nine of those slots. Barteck said a decision on the application is expected in July or August. If the grant request is not approved, Barteck told the Finance Committee last month, he would return to the committee to seek funding beginning in 2023.

The three hires will be funded through American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds for two and half years. According to Barteck, the total estimated cost of funding the three firefighters for the remainder of 2022 through 2024 is $771,000. City documents show the Fire Department with a shortfall of $501,000. The average annual spending for each firefighter is about $100,000 a year.