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  1. #1
    District Chief distchief60b's Avatar
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    Default Clay County Firefighters Want Salary increases

    Firefighters want pay made even


    Differences between Clay's salaries and other counties causes trouble, the union says.


    By DEBORAH CEARNAL
    Clay County Line
    Contract talks are under way, and Clay County firefighters say they are fighting for their livelihoods.


    According to figures provided by the fire/rescue union, first-year firefighters here are paid at least $2,000 less than those in neighboring counties. The pay discrepancies are robbing the county of experienced help, the union contends.

    "When you're lower than other counties, you're going to lose unless you keep up with them," Clu Wright, president of the Clay County Fire/Rescue union, said in a recent interview. "All you're doing is replacing people [instead of increasing staff]."

    Wright said 117 firefighters have left Clay for higher-paying jobs since 2000.

    "We're not asking to be rich. All we're asking is for pay that will keep good, experienced people here," he said.

    With the current three-year contract ending Sept. 30, the union and the county are trying to agree on terms for renewal. The 2005-06 operations budget that Public Safety Director James Corbin submitted to the County Commission does not include salary increases for fire/rescue employees, but requests 16 new firefighter positions.

    Commissioners will decide salary levels and whether to add more positions during their upcoming budget review process. The budget has to be adopted before the new fiscal year begins Oct. 1.

    Commission Chairman George Bush made no commitments but said public safety was one of his budget priorities.

    "We need to do everything we can to recruit and keep qualified public safety/fire personnel," he said.

    In a May 26 memo to union members, Wright compared Clay's salaries to Nassau, Duval, St. Johns and Alachua counties. The beginning pay in Clay is $25,534, with Alachua coming closest at $27,536. The highest difference is between Clay and St. Johns, where a beginning firefighter makes $31,900. Orange Park firefighters in their first year make $29,134.

    Moving up a step to driver/operator, the difference in pay jumps between the bottom two to $6,763, with Clay making $28,091 and Nassau making $34,854. The highest difference is with Duval, where a driver/operator makes $40,164. This step is not available to Orange Park; those firefighters are drivers and EMT's at the entry level.

    Base pay for a lieutenant in Clay is $30,900, with a Nassau lieutenant making $38,688, a difference of $7,788.

    A captain's pay in Clay is $36,059, while in Nassau it's $42,994 -- a $6,935 difference.

    Clay has 11 career-manned and three volunteer fire stations, as well as eight advanced life-support ambulances. There are 115 road personnel, with 57 of those being emergency medical technicians and 58 paramedics. Firefighters must be certified as firefighters and EMTs to be hired. Other fire/rescue personnel include 10 dispatchers and 20 administrative positions.

    As of Friday, firefighters had responded to 7,923 calls in the past year. Most calls -- 80 percent -- are for medical response, according to Capt. Bernita Bush, fire/rescue public information officer.

    There are four firefighter positions open.


    deborah.cearnaljacksonville.co m, (904) 278-9487 extension 11
    09-11 .. 343 "All Gave Some..Some Gave ALL" God Bless..R.I.P.
    ------------------------------
    IACOJ Minister of Southern Comfort
    "Purple Hydrant" Recipient (3 Times)
    BMI Investigator
    ------------------------------
    The comments, opinions, and positions expressed here are mine. They are expressed respectfully, in the spirit of safety and progress. They do not reflect the opinions or positions of my employer or my department.


  2. #2
    District Chief distchief60b's Avatar
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    Clay County Fire Rescue (CCFR) recently applied for the 2005 Department Of Homeland Security (DHS) Safer Grant. Due on June 28, this grant awards funds to state and government fire services to augment personnel assigned to apparatus running calls

    Since September 11, 2001, the DHS has increased funding to bring staffing up to nationally-accepted standards. Clay County has requested $4.6 million, to be disbursed over five years. Over 3,000 departments have applied, requesting $1.5 billion. With only $65 million budgeted, competition will be stiff.


    Clay County currently has 115 personnel working in the field. If allocated, the funds will increase staffing by approximately 40%, by hiring 46 personnel who will supplement 11 stations. Funds would also let Clay open one additional manned station in McRae, each to be staffed with 4 personnel per shift. These personnel would all be assigned to duty trucks, not administration.


    the move would bring Clay County to "minimum staffing" as per the 1710 recommendations.


    The National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA), along with International Association of Firefighters (IAFF) and the International Association Of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) conduct ongoing studies of call volumes, staffing, and firefighter safety year round, and for years past, as well as set nationally recognized standards. The data collected are then formulated into the 1710 recommendations.


    The 1710 recommendations call for 4 personnel on each engine, with a maximum response time of 4 minutes. For structure fires, a minimum of 15 personnel should be on scene within 8 minutes to meet these standards, a virtual impossibility with the current staffing and station locations.


    Months ago, CCFR officials approached the Board Of County Commissioners with a copy of the NFPA's (National Fire Protection Agency) 1710 recommendations, along with a "Master Plan--A Map for the Future" which projected needs for our county.


    With full approval of the Board, CCFR sought funding to make compliance a reality. The application was quite extensive, and with a short lead time, many departments may not have met the deadline.


    Captain Lori Fehr gave much credit to the work of the 1710 committee. "The whole reason we were able to meet the very tight deadline of the grant application, was the ability to meet statistical data requirements regarding call volume, personnel, equipment, trucks and response times. This information simply could not have been thrown together at the last minute. This compilation has been going on for over 18 months."


    The Safer Grant funding would cover 90% of the salary and associated benefits for the 46 new personnel for year one, decreasing to 30% during year four, with no grant funds after that. Counties will be required to cover these costs for continued employment.


    According to Jim Corbin, Director of the Department of Public Safety, " This is a golden opportunity for CCFR to provide adequate staffing immediately, as opposed to having to make an annual request for additional personnel, taking five or more years to accomplish."


    This will be accomplished by budgeting nine positions each year to encompass pay requirements for these personnel, with a yearly increase of 6 new positions per year.


    These personnel will only bring existing stations up to minimum staffing, and additional positions will need to be filled as stations open.


    Once the final grant selections are made, agencies receiving grant monies must fill the all allotted positions within 90 days. CCFR officials are already seeking a large applicant pool to ensure these numbers of qualified applicants are ready when the time comes.
    09-11 .. 343 "All Gave Some..Some Gave ALL" God Bless..R.I.P.
    ------------------------------
    IACOJ Minister of Southern Comfort
    "Purple Hydrant" Recipient (3 Times)
    BMI Investigator
    ------------------------------
    The comments, opinions, and positions expressed here are mine. They are expressed respectfully, in the spirit of safety and progress. They do not reflect the opinions or positions of my employer or my department.

  3. #3
    District Chief distchief60b's Avatar
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    IAFF Local 3362 disagrees with Clay Commission report


    By:James Williams, LRM Editor July 28, 2005

    Clu Wright, president of Local 3362 of the International Association of Fire Fighters, asked to rebut the facts of a Monitor article published in the July 14 edition, which was based on a report issued earlier this year by the Clay County Commission.

    Both Wright and O'Conor are assigned to the Camp Blanding unit, the result of an interlocal agreement between the state and the National Guard.
    The report, prepared by county auditor James Price and released last spring, compared the base pay and benefits of Clay firemen with those of firemen in surrounding counties.
    Wright took issue with the auditor's failure to consider starting salary levels for driver-operators, fire lieutenants and captains, where county-to-county pay discrepancies, according to Wright, are greater.
    The auditor's report puts the Clay firemen's starting salary at $26,601. Wright said it is more accurately valued at $25,534. Price listed paramedic pay at $3,397, when it is actually $3,270. Fire inspector pay had been placed at $1,250, and should have been listed at $1,200 per year.
    Wright cited several possible reasons for the discrepancies in the auditor's report, among them inclusion of overtime pay, which Wright said should not have been included.
    The union head also said that, in comparing Clay firemen's pay to other counties, Putnam should not have been included because it is not a "dual service" provider. That is Putnam County does not provide both fire and rescue services.
    Wright stated that the county auditor told him personally that, as listed in the report, benefits information can be challenged.
    Wright would not comment on on-going contract negotiations, except to say that ultimately, the union's position is that the firemen are doing a good job. "We want a competitive salary and we want to keep people here in the county. The commision knows (fire fighter retention) is a problem, and we want them to fix it."
    Wright and O'Conor cited numerous occasions where firefighters have left Clay County service for jobs in nearby counties. Clay County, Wright said, had lost 117 people in five years to Nassau, St. Johns, Duval and other counties nearby. The two men were personally familiar with one new fireman who quit the force and went back into construction work for better pay.
    "The county doesn't have to raise taxes to satisfy the firemen's request for equitable pay," Wright said. "When the commission wants something, a new park or whatever, they always find ways to get it. What's wrong with helping the firemen? Let's see some action."
    The county pays over $1 million in overtime pay annually to firemen, Wright said, and then added his concern that driver-operators were driving the county's costly equipment with less than a year in firefighter training or experience. Wright expressed concern that the McRae unit had not paid firemen at all, even though the community had been promised that would change for some time.
    Wright rejected the idea proposed by County Commissioner Harold Rutledge to put new hires on contract with a proviso that if they leave the county before a designated period, they must reimburse the county's training costs.
    Wright said that Rutledge's position was symptomatic of the commission's stance. "They want to fix the problem at the fireman's expense; they want to try to fix the problem without have to pay for it," Wright said.
    09-11 .. 343 "All Gave Some..Some Gave ALL" God Bless..R.I.P.
    ------------------------------
    IACOJ Minister of Southern Comfort
    "Purple Hydrant" Recipient (3 Times)
    BMI Investigator
    ------------------------------
    The comments, opinions, and positions expressed here are mine. They are expressed respectfully, in the spirit of safety and progress. They do not reflect the opinions or positions of my employer or my department.

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