City Council on Feb. 27 approved new hiring incentives that Fire Chief Darrell Dover said could help to increase fire department recruitment and retention.

Dover said the fire department has had between one to three openings for firefighters/paramedics at all times since August 2021.

With few applicants for the positions, the department has resorted to hiring paramedic-only certified personnel and then sending the paramedic to the fire academy for additional training, Dover said.

Under the incentive, new hires who are already a certified firefighter/paramedic will receive $5,000 with a three-year contract stipulating reimbursement to the city if that person leaves within the three-year period, Dover said.

The $5,000 will be paid out in two installments upon the completion of field training and after 18 months of employment.

City officials agreed they could further explore the city’s employee pay ranges while developing the fiscal year 2023-24 budget and as part of Shavano Park’s effort to update its long-range strategic town plan.

City Manager Bill Hill said it is also important for the local fire department to act quickly with hiring incentives because other small-town and suburban fire departments are considering their own incentives and that emergency service districts are growing and competing for more personnel.

“During the budget process and when we do the [competitive salary] study, we can bring this back and do an overarching framework,” Hill added.