The Borger City Council is taking action to amend an ordinance that would increase the response time allowed for employees of the Borger Fire Department.
The council introduced an ordinance that will amend the code of ordinances to allow Borger Fire Department employees to go from a 20-minute response time to a 60-minute response time.
Under the rules of the new ordinances, those hired by the Borger Fire Department are required to establish residence within a 60-minute response time from the City of Borger Fire Station. They must do this no later than 60 days subsequent to their actual employment.
Borger Fire Chief Bob Watson spoke to the council on the matter. Presently, firefighters must live within a 20-minute response time of the central fire station. However, the retention of firefighters right now has not been good, which was the reason for the request.
He said there are some employees of the fire station who have said it would be easier on them to live in the Amarillo area. He said extending the response time would help the department retain firefighters and be similar to what the police department does.
City manager Eddie Edwards also said increasing the response time would provide a broader pool of applicants. Watson said the department is full right now, but is about to lose two employees.
Mayor Jeff Brain said he and Edwards met with some of the fire captains two weeks ago, and they told them one of the best things they could do was increase the response time.
Mayor Pro-Tem Robert Vinyard said he mentioned to Edwards several months ago that this concern needed to be addressed, and he was pleased to see that something is finally being done.
Council member Charles Gillingham said he understood the reason for the change, but expressed minor concern that those living outside the Borger area wouldn’t really be invested in Borger itself.
Watson said this rule was set in place years ago, but there are times when rules have to be updated to keep up with the changing times. He said this particular rule was actually hurting the fire department more than it was helping it. He said he would appreciate the council changing this ordinance.
Edwards said back in the 1980s-1990s, employees were required to live within the city limits of the cities in which they worked. Later, this was changed to two and a half miles outside city limits.
Around the beginning of the 2000s, he said a change was made by the Texas Legislature that a city could not make specifications about where employees lived. One exception was setting a reasonable response time to be called in for a civil emergency. For many years, a 20-minute response time was set for fire and police.
Edwards said in the late 2000s, the Borger Police Department ran into a similar problem retaining personnel, and the change was made to allow for a 60-minute response time for those working there. He said it did seem to help, and it made sense to allow the same to be done to the fire department.
Gillingham asked Watson how this would affect response time of employees in case of emergencies. Watson said this was looked at, and he said it doesn’t look like it will hurt the department much to implement this rule. He did a poll in the fire station of how many employees would move, and right now, only about two or three said they would move if this ordinance is passed.