The Neshoba Democrat

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Mayor says firefighters deserve less pay because they can 'sleep'

Managing Editor

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The mayor and aldermen argued last week at their regular meeting over the merits of pay raises for firefighters and police officers.

Ward 4 Alderman Bobbie Jackson praised the efforts of the firefighters and said she felt they did "even more than the police department" which sparked a response from the mayor.

"Are you serious?" Mayor Rayburn Waddell asked.

Jackson, who oversees the fire department, said she was very serious.

"They go into houses and save lives," she said.

Last month, the Mayor and Board of Aldermen discussed a $2,000 increase for police officers and a $1,000 raise for all other city employees.

Jackson asked the board last week to raise firefighters' pay by $2,000 as well.Waddell said Jackson's request would cost an additional $50,000 to $60,000 a year.

"Right now we are sitting at $524,530 that we are going to spend more than we are taking in," he said. "You are talking almost $600,000 and I know that can't be overcome. Y'all are the ones that are going to have to vote on this. We supposedly had our budget in place. It should have been done at the last board meeting but that's OK."

Jackson continued her plea, saying it was the right thing to do.

"If you give the police department $2,000, the fire department should get it," she said.

When Waddell said that on-duty firefighters could sleep from 9 o'clock to 5 or 6 o'clock in the morning if they didn't get called out and still get paid, Jackson fired back that police officers "ride around during that time and burn gas."

She witnessed firefighters passing her home that morning at 3 or 4 o'clock going to a fire or something, she said.

"They are away from their families and they are professional workers and they deserve to get what the police department gets," she said.

Despite that, Waddell said a line had to be drawn.

"Sounds like I've got to be the bad guy. But somewhere we have to draw the line and I don't like some of the lines we have to draw either. I wish the city could give everybody a $3,000 pay raise."

Ward 1 Alderman Joe Tullos, who oversees the police department, said at the board's Aug. 19 meeting that a $2,000 increase was needed to maintain and attract good police officers.

In reiterating his point last week, he said officers had left the department in the past to accept better paying positions with other agencies, including the county sheriff's department.

"The money they pay is one thing, and they get the car and the gas to go back and forth home in and that is a sizable amount. I don't blame them for bettering themselves if they think that is what they are doing, and some of them are," Tullos said

Waddell expressed appreciation to both Tullos and Jackson for supporting the departments they oversee.

In other action, the board:

• Permitted Firemen Scott Clark and Dexter Spears to attend Reno Fire Science Academy Sept. 14 - 18 at no cost.

• Employed David Brackett and Eric Quick as patrolmen 1st Class effective Sept. 9, at $10.12 an hour, subject to drug screen.

• Paid Waggoner Engineering $1401.30 for work done at airport.

• Closed an unnamed alley, between Regions Bank and Citizens National Bank, and reverted the property back to the abutting landowners, after no one filed an objection.

• Appoint building official Jay Eakes as liaison officer for the city effective immediately.

• Paid auxiliary officer $10.12 an hour for working at the coliseum will it was a Red Cross shelter.

• Declared the city a disaster area consistent with the State of Mississippi declaration in the wake of Hurricane Gustav. Waddell said this would be needed for financial reimbursements should the city find any damages caused by the hurricane.

• Place an ad in a special section on the Choctaw Tribe which will be published later this month by The Neshoba Democrat.

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