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Hall County working to hire, retain more firefighters
Trainees who leave have to repay cost of training
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You can train them, but the county doesn’t always retain them.

Fire Chief David Kimbrell said in the past year, Hall County has had trouble with high turnover in the fire services department.

“People have left for different reasons. Some people leave to be closer to where they live. Some have left for a raise, some have left for retirement. There’s been a number of reasons,” he said.

In all, about 23 firefighters went to other counties, leaving Hall County 10 percent below minimum staffing, said a report for the Hall County delegation to the Georgia General Assembly.

But starting at the county level, steps are being taken.

County Administrator Randy Knighton said the county is in the process of addressing
the shortage.

“I do know that we are in the process of hiring a number of firefighters right now; I believe it was 10 or 12,” he said.

Kimbrell said that trainees who relocate to more appealing counties do have to repay the cost of training.

“We do have a contract that they sign, and the cost of the training has to be paid back,” he said.

Even so, other counties remain more attractive.

“Some places pay that (training fee) for them, in other words you could go somewhere for a signing bonus and they’ll pay for that,” Kimbrell said.

Knighton added that conversely, part of the problem is other counties are happy to have the Hall County firefighters.

“I can say, of course, we’ve got a very good department here. Given the excellent training and professionalism that we have in our staff, they become attractive to other people,” he said.

Hall County is looking to make the department more attractive after steep budget cuts, Knighton said.

“There have been some steps taken in the past year to address some of the previous austerity measures that had to be implemented,” he said.

“So we think overall that will certainly, in a very tangible way, address any issues that we’ve had related to certain employee concerns.”

The elimination of the remaining furlough days has been step one for retaining employees, Knighton said.

“We’ve taken some steps to try to fill some of the gaps that we’ve had. The commission eliminated the remaining two furlough days,” he said.

“A year ago this time we had 12 furlough days.”

Kimbrell said it shouldn’t be a problem getting the right people.

“We don’t have any trouble attracting people,” he said. “We usually have 200, 250 people apply for the jobs.”