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Firefighters union and city close to labor contract agreement; includes no additional firefighters

According to the International Association of Fire Fighters and the city of Columbia, a labor contract agreement is almost done with the Columbia Fire Department.

In February, the union presented to the City Council the need for 95 additional firefighters to do their job effectively. However, the city and union were unable to meet that request and no additional firefighter positions will be added in the contract, due to lack of funding.

Kurt Becker, 4th District vice president of the Professional Fire Fighters of Eastern Missouri, told ABC 17 News the hiring of additional firefighters is being left open.

Becker told ABC 17 News, “I am comfortable saying that our bargaining team is very satisfied with the outcome of the process and will be unanimously recommending to the membership of Local 1055 that they ratify this agreement.”

Becker said the only way the fire department would see any additional firefighters would be through a tax ballot.

Assistant Chief Brad Frazier told ABC 17 News the department is at full staff right now but needs an additional three stations to help with response times.

“As Columbia continues to grow in those areas and the community grows, we are seeing an increase in response times,” Frazier said. “A need for three stations has been communicated clearly to the City Council and city manager’s office.”

In 2009, it took firefighters an average of 6 minutes 54 seconds to respond to a call, in 2016 the time went up to 7 minutes 35 seconds.

Frazier said the City Council would have to approve the three fire stations in order to move forward with exact locations. As of now, no set date on when this could get on the City Council’s agenda.

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