NEWBERRY — Captain Gene Shealy, with the City of Newberry Fire Department, spoke with Newberry County Council about recruitment and retention within the fire service in Newberry County.
“Four years ago, Chief Keith Minick put in for a grant because he saw the need for volunteers in the City of Newberry, he was successful in writing that grant, and I came on board to help recruit firefighters directly in the City of Newberry, and manage those firefighters as far as hiring,” Shealy said. “When he wrote the grant, he knew it would indirectly impact the county in fire service.”
During those four years, through this program, a CTC Program at the Newberry County Career Center was established. This training program was to get students at Firefighter One level in their first year, and Firefighter Two in their second.
“That is not directed at the City, but at the County as a whole. Three full years of this program, we’ve turned out four completers, this was a jump start program, out of those four, all have been placed in fire departments across the county as Firefighter Two level certification, 255 hours of training,” Shealy said.
When Shealy first came on board, his main goal was to make a budget for advertising. With help from Minick, they wrote a grant for recruitment and retention, and ended up getting funded for four years, part of this was for advertising/marketing.
“We had to educate the citizens of our community that we need volunteer firefighters, our citizens did not understand this need,” he said.
Another part of the grant was for the Explorer Program, to put gear on the youths in the Explorers. Shealy said they did not have gear for the Explorers to take certified training, now they have six sets of gear for that purpose.
“The last four years we’ve had 27 direct hires through recruitment and retention grant in Newberry County. We have trained over 21 county volunteers to the basic firefighter level in three years,” Shealy said. “Also trained over 10 county volunteer firefighters to the hazmat operation level.”
He added that these training programs have helped keep volunteers. They were losing volunteers due to the fact they had to travel out of the county to get trained.
“We have a long way to go, but we are not going backwards, last four years we’ve made big strives and big gains. Without sustaining a position such as this in Newberry County, we will be going in the wrong direction,” Shealy said.
• Council approved the second reading of an ordinance to rezone a parcel, located on Marian Way, from General Commercial in Single Family Residential located.
• Council approved a resolution commemorating the Newberry High School Girls Basketball team for their recent State Championship win.
• Council approved a resolution to establish that no objection, on behalf of Newberry County, shall be made in regard to petition to close Tree Lane off Holiday Acres Road, for which a property owner has filed a petition in Circuit Court to close.
• Council approved the County Administrator to accept donated funds in the amount of $167,782 and execute a change order to the museum construction contract in that amount to build a mezzanine.