A push to require municipalities to pay into two retirement funds for certain volunteer firefighters could severely undermine fire protection in small communities. That's according to Senator Kelly Haney, who has requested an Attorney General's opinion on that issue, as well as whether those same volunteers would have to meet the same physical and agility requirements as full-time fire fighters.
"There are some communities in the state that rely heavily on volunteer firefighters and some of them happen to be municipal employees. The Professional Fire Fighters Organization contends the fact that these volunteers are being paid by the city for their other jobs means that they have to be treated the same as full-time fire fighters. If that happened, then cities would have to pay into two pension funds for those employees. I doubt any rural community could afford that," said Senator Haney. "In addition, requiring those individuals to meet the same physical requirements as full-time fire fighters could discourage a lot of men and women from volunteering."
Haney said the result would be financially devastating to many communities, reducing the numbers of volunteers, and leaving some areas strapped for fire protection.
"The bottom line is citizens across the state whose lives and property depend on these volunteers could be left without the level of fire protection they currently enjoy. Municipal governments would be strapped, and many dedicated men and women may have to rethink their volunteer service to their communities. Virtually everyone loses in a scenario like that," said Senator Haney.
Senator Haney said he has asked Attorney General Drew Edmonson for an opinion on the state statute concerning volunteer fire fighters who are also municipal employees.
"I'm confident that if the law needs clarification, there are many legislators who would gladly author the necessary changes. The service these volunteers perform is too important to undermine it with unnecessary red tape and unrealistic requirements," said Haney.