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Fire chief's paid on-call status removed

Brainerd City Council members faced a difficult decision Monday night in regard to Brainerd Fire Chief Kevin Stunek and his pay as a full-time department head and as a member of the fire department’s paid on-call staff.

Stunek has served 38 years as a paid on-call firefighter and been paid for the part-time duty. However, his position as fire chief is a salaried position.

In a memo to council dated Dec. 13, Stunek said that when he responds at 3 a.m. to an incident, he does not receive overtime and asked that council review the legal documents and allow his ability to continue as a member of the paid on-call staff.

Many of the council members had a difficult time considering to pay beyond just the salary.

“I think he (Stunek) is a talented fire chief and I think he does a good job,” said Council President Mary Koep. “I just think this is totally out of the realm of what we should do, it can change ... for any department head and I think this is a very bad policy and I am amazed we’re even considering it.”

Council member Kelly Bevans said he thinks doing this would be a great benefit to the city in keeping an experienced chief at the helm.

“All department heads have things beyond an eight hour work day,” said Bevans, who cited the actual job description for the fire chief position. “There are a million things that they do as part of their salary, but no where in the fire chief description does it say he has to go fight fires.

“But we would have the opportunity to put a more experienced firefighter out fighting fires...Imagine asking Chief (Corky) McQuiston to be at every traffic stop or bust, that’s basically what you are telling Chief Stunek.”

A motion was made to allow Stunek to continue with his paid-on call status without being paid until May 20, 2014, at which time Stunek would retire from the paid on-call department. Stunek will have completed 40 years of service in 2014.

The motion failed 5-2, with council member Bob Olson and Bevans voting in favor.

A second motion, to retire Stunek from the paid on-call department effective Dec. 31, passed by a 5-2 vote, with Olson and council member Kevin Goedker against.

Stunek said he has no comment at this time.

JESSI PIERCE, staff writer, may be reached at 855-5859 or Follow her on Twitter at (@jessi_pierce).