While Lisbon volunteer firefighters are moving forward as if the contingent firefighter program will remain in place come July, Howard County Fire Chief Bill Goddard said the future of the program has yet to be decided.
"We're making progress, short progress, but it's progress," Goddard said Tuesday, April 23, referring to meetings with leadership of the Lisbon Volunteer Fire Company.
Goddard has proposed to eliminate funding for the department's contingent employee program beginning July 1, but members of the Lisbon Volunteer Fire Company have said the move is aimed solely at them. Lisbon has 80 volunteer firefighters and paramedics in addition to its 18 contingents. It is the only station in the county not assigned career personnel.
Contingent employees are part-time firefighters and paramedics without benefits. They are required to hold the same certifications as career personnel and are paid between $14 and $18 hourly.
Curtis Lowrey, a Lisbon fire department member who attended the most recent meeting between Goddard and Lisbon leadership, said they were told in the last meeting that "the contingents aren't losing their jobs.
One of his concerns is adequate staffing. Goddard said Lisbon has not always been able to meet the minimum number of staff required to be on hand around the clock.
Lisbon members have countered by saying that the county has not allowed them to hire additional contingents in recent years, which leads to the staffing concerns.
Of the 36 contingent employees currently working for the Department of Fire and Rescue Services, 18 operate out of the Lisbon station, 17 are employed with the West Friendship Volunteer Fire Department and one works with the Elkridge Volunteer Fire Department.
Goddard said he has been "very happy" with the meetings between the fire department and the Lisbon station.
There is no deadline for the two sides to reach an agreement on the future of the contingent program, but Goddard said he would like to see both sides compromise by July.