By Rita Cook / The Ellis County Press
FERRIS – When recent Ferris Fire Chief Tom Leverentz left his job a few month ago with the fire department, he left a gaping hole that has apparently not been as easy to fill as some might have hoped.
Leverentz was receiving a mere $7.25 an hour according to city records for his role as the city’s fire chief. There is no way Ferris can expect someone to come in at such a low salary full-time.
At the moment, David Petricca is acting as the interim fire chief in the city.
Ferris City Manager Bill Jordan said, “Council has authorized him to continue this role until the next budget year.”
The City of Ferris is “paying Petricca within the pay range for a fire chief as outlined in our pay scale,” Jordan said not committing to a number. “Since he is working on a part-time basis, we were able to locate funds that could be cut from other areas of the budget to cover his salary.”
Jordan did say that the city’s budget has not been amended to show a new amount for the unexpected salary increase.
“We anticipate a total annual expenditure for this line item to be $27,497.36,” Jordan said. “The new chief is receiving $26.44 an hour.”
Back in early January, Jordan said $16,767.50 had been earmarked for the fire chief position in the new fiscal year. He said that amount had merely been reflective on the agreement with Leverentz
“This was a unique arrangement that suited both parties at the time,” Jordan said. “We do not expect to fill this position with a similar arrangement, and will need to adjust the budget to compensate a new fire chief at a rate closer to the current market rate.”
Even without the direction of a full-time chief, the fire department is apparently thriving.
Jordan said since the interim chief stepped in the total number of volunteers has risen by four members.
“We have reassigned one volunteer to full-time status as a captain.
“Our part-time staffing has been increased by one member and we have one member in paramedic school that will not be active until April.”
There are no vacancies in the fire department either in regard to paid staff. According to Jordan, during the recent hiring process for part time, the city received over 20 applications, and during the full-time hiring 15 applicants applied.
A full-staff in the Ferris Fire Department includes one part-time chief, three full-time captains, six part-time fire fighters and 15 volunteers.
According to Jordan all is fully staffed with the exception of three volunteers.
The city council also recently renewed with Care Flight for emergency services in the city.
While there is always much moving around in regard to city and county services such as the ESD board, Jordan concluded that the city of Ferris has no plans to nominate candidates on the ESD board in the future or make changes.
“The city does not nominate or appoint members to the ESD board,” Jordan said.
“We have given input to the commissioner’s court as to who we recommend.
“The city does put forth over $300,000 annually to the fire department so ensuring that we have the right people in place is important.”