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Politics & Government

City Council passes non-union working resolution without Fire Deputy Chief after push from Rhinelander Fire Department

Hodag TV
Josh Schmidtz was one of several people that spoke up against including the Fire Deputy Chief position in the Non-Union Working Resolution during Rhinelander City Council meeting.

A resolution about non-union positions working for the City of Rhinelander drew out members of the Rhinelander Fire Department and their supporters to the City Council meeting Monday night.

As it was originally written, the non-union working resolution for 2022 lays out the salary and benefits for more than two dozen city employees.

The positions range from street maintenance workers to the city clerk.

The Rhinelander Fire Department says one position shouldn’t have been included in that list: the Fire Deputy Chief.

Several members of the Rhinelander Fire Department and their supports spoke against Resolution No. 2021-33 as it was written during the public comment period.

Dan Bower was one of them. He’s currently a deputy fire chief for the department.

His issue, and that of many that spoke up against the resolution, is that it was done so without discussion and that there was a lack of transparency from the City Administrator about why the Deputy Chief position was added to this list.

“The resolution for the fire deputy chief is incomplete, the wage for that position is marked to be determined for 2022 and the benefits that are listed on the 40-hour work week. We currently work a 56-hour work week. It would be irresponsible, in my opinion, that is this incomplete,” said Bower.

The Deputy Chief position is the only one on the list marked to be determined under the wage for 2022.

Ahead of the meeting, Rhinelander Fire Firefighters Local 1028 put out a plea on Facebook. It said adding the position to this resolution would put another hit on an already battered fire department that has had to deal with the pandemic, staffing shortages for most of the last year, and the removal of the Assistant Chief position.

It put out a call for people to call their alderpersons or show up at the meeting in support of the fire department.

Dan Arndorfer was one of those people. He’s a former paramedic and firefighter and now an emergency nurse.

“We’re getting hit from every different direction. They don’t need it from you. You are their leaders. We elected you to lead us. It’s embarrassing,” said Arndorfer.

When the resolution came up for a vote, City Administrator Zach Vruwink said this was an annual resolution that comes up to establish wage and employment policies where the non-union handbook is deficient.

“I understand that the inclusion of the deputy chiefs in the resolution has created some question and confusion. Certainly not an instrument that would challenge somebody’s employment status, exempt/non-exempt, union/non-union, that type of thing. I would certainly find it acceptable if you wish to approve it absent that inclusion,” said Vruwink.

That’s exactly what the City Council did.

The City Council didn’t have too much discussion on it when the resolution came up.

The council made an amendment to the non-union working resolution that removed the Fire Deputy Chief position from the list.

The amended version passed.