Miss. Chief Says Pay Needs to Match Area Departments

Bringing salaries of fire department personnel up to the area's average is among the goals of Fire Chief Anthony Clayton.

Clayton was among department head who talked with the mayor and city council during a budget work session on Thursday. No decisions about budgeting have been made. Council members will deliberate over requests before setting the budget, which has to be adopted by the first of October.

Clayton hopes to keep more firemen at the Meridian Fire Department longer by adjusting salaries he said. Clayton has long observed that MFD pays for training for new firemen who get some experience and then leave for higher paying jobs at other departments, both in and out of Mississippi. The department has lost as many as 10 in one year, according to Clayton, but he added that it's usually around five or six. At any rate, the city pays for their training, and then gives them experience that they often use to move on to other departments. Some also leave firefighting altogether to take higher paying jobs in another field.

"We just don't pay enough," Clayton said.

Clayton said firefighters who were making less than $9 per hour last year had their pay increased in October, 2013 when all city employees making less than $9 per hour were brought up to that level. For that reason, he said he is not asking for an increase for them.

Clayton characterized the increases not as raises, but adjustments.

"A raise is something that is done every year," Clayton said. "An adjustment is bringing it in line with the average of what the region is paying."

His request to the city council:

Length of Service        Pay increase

1-5 years            25 cents per hour

5-10 years            50 cents per hour

10-15 years            75 cents per hour

15 and up            $1 per hour

"The people we have invested the most in — I want to retain the most," Clayton said.

 In six months, Clayton is also planning to ask for an increase for incentive pay, which rewards personnel for continuing their education in firefighting skills.

  Although a new fire station is not on the drawing board yet, Clayton asked the council for money to purchase land upon which the city could build a new Fire Station No. 2. That station, on Grand Avenue and St. Charles Street, was built in 1907 to house horse-drawn fire wagons. Clayton said he is asking the council to budget for $200,000 to buy land, but no decision has yet been made on the location.

The fire department is also asking for $48,000 for a new 4-wheel drive pickup to use as a command vehicle. Clayton said that price includes all of the radio equipment, lights, sirens and all other equipment.

The current battalion command vehicle is a 2005 Suburban with 78,000 miles on its odometer. Clayton said those are stop and go city miles, not open highway miles.

Chief of Police Benny Dubose said he is asking for three new vehicles, one for animal control and two to transport prisoners. With regard to animal control, Dubose said he hopes the city can continue its partnership with the county in animal control. Dubose took over as chief in June, and faced problems in staffing with animal control that occurred before that.

 "I would like to see us work together with the county. Any time the city and county can't or don't work together, it doesn't benefit the community as a whole. I hope we can make it work," Dubose said.

 Dubose is also seeking money for equipment that will allow the police department to enhance and produce better videos from security cameras at convenience stores and other businesses.

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©2014 The Meridian Star (Meridian, Miss.)

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