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Police, fire depts. hope bonus will lure applicants

  • Paramedic and firefighter Luke Hodgdon, left, helps probationary firefighter Ian McKinnon raise a ladder. Adam Drapcho / Laconia Daily Sun

  • Laconia City Councilor Bruce Cheney, right, speaks in support of hiring bonus incentives designed to lure applicants for both the Laconia Police and Fire departments. Laconia Police Chief Matt Canfield, and Fire Chief Kirk Beattie stand at the podium as they wait to answer questions from councilors about the incentives. Adam Drapcho—Laconia Daily Sun

The Laconia Daily Sun
Published: 10/1/2021 6:23:37 PM

The police and fire departments are hoping financial incentives will help them fill vacancies, which has become a serious challenge.

The Fire Department is now offering up to a $4,000 sign-on bonus for applicants who meet certain requirements, while the Police Department is offering not only a hiring bonus — from $2,000 to as much as $4,000, but money to offset moving expenses besides.

“We need to do whatever we can do to be competitive,” Fire Chief Kirk Beattie said.

He told the City Council Monday that in the last five years 12 firefighters have left for other departments which offered better pay.

“How do we get people in the door and how do we get them to stay,” Beattie told the council. “Hopefully this will get them into the door.”

Beattie said that part of the problem is not enough people are going into the fire/EMS profession.

“Hiring is a problem for departments across the state,” he said.

Police Chief Matt Canfield said police departments statewide and across the nation are experiencing the same problem.

Growing calls for police reform and national debate over the deadly use of force have made it increasingly hard for police departments to retain and attract officers, Canfield said prior to the meeting.

While stressing the need for accountability by police, Canfield said officers find the “Monday morning quarterbacking” of decisions that they often need to make in a split second demoralizing. Add to that the stress that comes with dealing with volatile situations like domestic disputes, or the anxiety the family feels whenever the officer is on duty, making it that much harder to recruit or retain officers.

Beattie said there are currently two open positions at the Fire Department and so far he has received no applications for either opening.

Canfield said he is working to fill two positions in his department. The chief said that does not want just “warm bodies,” but applicants who will fit the “police mold in Laconia” which places a lot of emphasis on community policing.

The City Council unanimously supported the incentive plans presented by the two chiefs.

The Fire Department incentives include $3,000 for applicants with advanced EMT certification, or $4,000 for accredited paramedics. If the applicant has either of the emergency medical credentials but no firefighter training, some of the bonus can be used to offset the cost for the firefighting certification class.

To be fully vested in the bonus payments recruits would need to serve with the department for at least two years.

The amount of the Police Department hiring bonuses depends on whether the applicant is a certified officer, with certified officers receiving up to $4,000, compared to as much as $2,500 for non-certified candidates. In addition, there are bonuses based on whether the applicant has a two- or four-year college degree.

The department is also offering up to $1,000 to cover the moving expenses of a successful applicant. Canfield said he hoped the relocation expense allowance would entice officers from the southern part of the state or even the Great Boston area to consider joining the Laconia force, lured by the Lakes Region’s quality of life.

“We market the area very heavily in our recruiting,” Canfield said.

The Police Department bonuses would be paid incrementally once the new hire completes various levels of training, and finally the one-year probationary period.

These articles are being shared by partners in The Granite State News Collaborative. For more information visit collaborativenh.org.

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