Seeley Swan Pathfinder -


By Andi Bourne

Discussions Continue about Officer Stipend and Department Needs


SEELEY LAKE – The Seeley Lake Fire District Board of Trustees welcomed Connie Clark to the board. They discussed the need for paid officers and an assistant chief. No decisions were made. Continued discussion along with the budget approval are on November’s agenda.

Clark was sworn in as the new board member filling Bruce Bourne’s term. The Missoula County Commissioners appointed Clark after being the only applicant for the open position.

Fire Chief Bob Vanden Heuvel assigned Shelly Johnson and Kristy Pohlman as medical crew chiefs and will direct medical calls when they respond. District Administrator Lynn Richards and Maintenance worker Mark Kues are now logistic chiefs ensuring that requests from a call are met. These job duties will be officially added to their job descriptions.

“I have to start building a staff that can cover for me,” said Vanden Heuvel. While he currently has four officers, all have other jobs working long days and some nights.

Vanden Heuvel presented the board with a Pay for Officer Coverage Proposal. He believes at no time should Seeley Lake be without an Officer in Charge (OIC). While the volunteers are not asking for compensation, Vanden Heuvel believes it will help and be an incentive to take the position.

“Volunteers do whatever they can to help, but nothing is guaranteed,” said Vanden Heuvel.

The proposal included $5/hour for on call for the OIC and a $25 stipend per 911 emergency call for service when they are on call. He wants the OIC compensated because they are restricted when on call and would hold the same responsibility currently imposed on the chief.

Many on the board agreed that because it is a volunteer department, the volunteer response is all that be expected. Chair Bonnie Connell said that it works, but they need Missoula to help cover.

Vanden Heuvel estimated that at this rate, it would be under $6,000 for officers to cover the times when he is not available to respond. If he were to take more time off, which is the goal, it would cost more.

The board put the decision on the officer stipend on the November agenda. Vanden Heuvel requested, if it is approved, that it be retroactive to the Oct. 18 date.

The board asked Vanden Heuvel what he thinks this department needs. In addition to the stipend for the officers, which would currently fit in the budget, and an assistant chief, which would not fit into the budget at this time, he would like to see a station revamp, a new firefighting apparatus and the self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) and turnouts replaced. The department has until 2021 to replace their current SCBAs and turnouts.

Vanden Heuvel agreed to put together a cost estimate for three options, the bare necessities, a middle of the road package including needs and wants and an estimate for everything. They will use these estimates to further discuss the options for going to the voters with an increase in the mill levy or running a bond.

Board member Scott Kennedy recommended putting it out to the community and seeing what they want from the department. If they are willing to pay more for more services then the board shouldn’t prevent that. But that decision needs to come from the taxpayers.

Vanden Heuvel agreed and will do more outreach to see what the community wants. If the community is happy with the way things are now then he doesn’t feel trying to get a levy increase voted in will be worth the time and effort.

The next meeting is Nov. 15 at 6 p.m. at the Seeley Lake Fire Station. Items on the agenda include action on the officer stipend, the budget and discussion on the three options for a mill levy.


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