By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN
BG Independent News
Bowling Green is trying to prepare now for a rash of retirements expected to hit the city’s police and fire divisions in a couple years.
Nearly 25 years ago, city voters passed a couple safety levies – allowing the city to add staff to both the fire and police divisions. The additional staffing was viewed as a necessity to community safety.
But now many of the police officers and firefighters filling positions created after the levies passed are nearing retirement – all at once.
The city will fill the vacancies, but it will take some planning by the police and fire divisions, Municipal Administrator Lori Tretter said last Saturday during a strategic planning session held for City Council.
The police division could see six to eight retirements in 2021, Police Chief Tony Hetrick said.
“That will open the floodgates,” Hetrick said of the 25-year mark in 2021.
The fire division is facing the retirement of four officers this year, and as many as 20 retirements over the next fire years, Fire Chief Bill Moorman said.
Bowling Green now requires all its firefighters to also be paramedics.
“Finding good, quality candidates to fill those positions is more difficult,” Moorman said. “We’ve got some challenges.”
Council member Sandy Rowland asked if the city’s pay scale for firefighters is high enough to help attract people to come from other fire departments in the region.
Moorman said the Bowling Green firefighter pay scale is about average for the region.
Council President Mike Aspacher asked Hetrick if efforts are being made to add some diversity in hires to the police division.
“We are unrepresented in minority hires,” Hetrick agreed.
To help remedy that, the chief said the next recruitment effort may be expanded to a statewide and national search. Hetrick said he is considering contracting with a firm that tests nationally for new hires.
“Hopefully that bumps up our interest,” the chief said.