Sometimes you can't wait no matter what the budget says. The City of Superior is giving the green light to hiring an Assistant Fire Chief for the department even though that position will be unfunded by the current budget until July.

The motion on March 21 by the Superior Human Resources Committee will allow Superior Fire Chief Scott Gordon to hire a second in command.  Once hired, it will mark the first time in in 16 years since there was someone filling it.

City of Superior, WI sign
Nick Cooper - TSM Duluth

While it's been a while since Superior has had an Assistant Fire Chief, it's not without effort. According to an article in the Superior Telegram [paywall]:

"The city council allocated funding to restore the position starting in July 2022 and approved the job description in November.  In December, [Superior Fire Chief Scott] Gordon brought the request to reinstate and fill the position and subsequent vacancies before the committee.  The motion was tabled.  The next month, the committee voted to postpone discussion on the request until March."

So what changed?  City leaders have determined that there is the potential for cost savings for the budget - even by spending more on a salary that's currently unfunded.

At issue is the cost of overtime to the Superior Department's budget line.

As part of his recommendation for the move, Superior Mayor Jim Paine highlighted the potential savings that an Assistant Fire Chief would bring to the payroll budget:

"If the position were filled today....early projections show the department would come in up to $12,000 over budget.  But, hiring the Assistant Fire Chief now could actually save the city up to $14,000 by cutting overtime.  The assistant fire chief could fill in for battalion chiefs when they are on vacation.  The ability to save money will start to climb from this moment [because people are starting to take time off]."

Planning for the position, the department would seek to fill it internally.  Outside hires would come subsequently after the "ripple effect leading to further position changes within the department."

Nick Cooper - TSM Duluth
Nick Cooper - TSM Duluth

Once the ripple hires are over (i.e. with personnel moving up from within the department), the final end result would be  a "41st firefighter" that would need to be hired - to fill the incoming, bottom-run position (speaking seniority wise).  Due to the fact that the assistant chief position is unfunded, and due to the budget overages due to items like fuel costs, the committee added a stipulation to leave that final position unfilled until it is funded budget wise.  That final draft of the proposal is what has advanced to the city council for its final vote.

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