SUN PRAIRIE, Wis. -

Sun Prairie city officials and members of the firefighters’ union signed a two-year contract Monday night, agreeing to keep the department in the hands of the volunteer crew.

Sun Prairie Volunteer Fire Department, Inc. President John Austad said the deal was finalized in November after weekly meetings between negotiation teams.

“I believe that both our department and the city have learned a lot about what each other does and coming forward with, hopefully, a good solution for the constituents that we all serve,” Austad said.

The contract also includes hiring three additional full-time firefighters, bringing the number of paid staff from five to eight people. Mayor John Murray said that will provide enough manpower to staff the main station from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. seven days a week.

Murray said the new contract will cost the city around $600,000.

“There is no question that to get well-trained individuals to commit to working at the station 24/7, you have to pay them. There is no question because you have to pay people for what they're worth,” Murray said.

Austad said volunteer staff will start to supplement the new staffing during the overnight hours starting in February.

“It's been a long several months,” Austad said, “and I'm glad that we're making the step forward to continue doing what we're doing and support our communities.”

The townships of Bristol, Burke and Sun Prairie will also enter a two-year contract with the volunteer fire department.

In July, city alders voted to budget for a consultant to evaluate the fire department and determine the best way to run the organization. There is $50,000 in the budget to pay for that consulting.

Murray said once he appoints a new fire advisory committee, the group’s first course of action will be to put out a request for proposal and hire a consultant.

Murray expected an evaluation by next summer, followed by a number of opportunities for public input.

“Regardless of what your opinion was on this topic, I think we can all agree that everyone had the best interest of public safety in mind. Where our opinions diverged was how was best to get there,” Murray said.

“I think there were a lot of unknowns at that point in moving forward, and you know,” Austad said. “There was a lot of pride behind it that we could continue doing what we're doing.”