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Firefighter pay increase discussed at retreat

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WILMINGTON, NC. -- From battling dangerous flames to rescuing car crash victims, Wilmington’s firefighters provide a valuable service to our community.

After a series of recent complaints about their pay, Wilmington City Council is now being asked to put a price on that service the firefighters provide.

"I believe that the city staff, the city manager, and his staff have done a great job in adhering to what the council wanted to see which was no tax increase, and to continue to provide a level of service that our citizens have come to expect and want,” said Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo.

But according to at least one person in attendance at the Wilmington City Council budget retreat at Wilmington International Airport the public service Mayor Saffo is speaking of could be suffering due to a lack of competitive pay. According to Chuck Bower, head of the Wilmington Professional Firefighters Association, that needs to change.

"We would like to see a long time plan to make sure that the compensation packages continue to grow to at least ensure a living wage and as always a market average,” said Bower. “We're not asking for the moon and the stars we would just like to be average."

According to Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo the concerns of the city’s firefighters are being heard loud and clear but any raise has to fit within the budget.

"It's a balancing act,” said Saffo. “You know we have a lot of citizens out there that probably are living below a living wage and haven't had a raise in years. We have to be cognizant we have to be sensitive to the needs of our citizens who will be helping to pay for this."

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Firefighter PayThe

The firefighters of WFD should receive the same pay as the police. It is appalling that their members have to resort to public assistance just to maintain their families. The entire city govt. from the Mayor on down should change this ASAP !!

Ok here we go again. How

Ok here we go again. How many times does it have to be said. Why do firefighters think they dont have to work a second job to make ends meet. Is your employer responsible for a certain standard of living? What is that 3br and 2 baths. At least a minivan to cart your 4 kids around. What do you do when your off for 3,4 or maybe 5 days in a row. You knew pay was low when you took job. Leave and get a job that pays you what you are worth in another city or state for that matter. I guarantee someone will come in and take your job very fast.

Really

This goes to guest 123123. Yes, here we go again!! It seems that you are tired of the firefighters raising the question as to why they are under paid. Well, I am a firefighter for the City of Wilmington I unlike you will post my name for I have nothing to hide.

I do have a 3br and 2 bath house. I do not have a minivan to cart my two children around, and yes I do have 4 to 5 days off in a row.

Now for the rest of the story!!!!!! My House is located in the South side of town in the Sunset neighborhood, you know the older section of town. Look up the property values of the section and that will tell you about how much it is worth. I raised both of my children there and have been there for over 25 years.

As for the 4 or 5 days off in a row my friend you need to understand that I work 24 on and 24 off. That means I work three of your 8 hr. days in a row if you have a job to begin with. After my third day of shift I would have put in 72 hours at the end of the week compared to your 40 or 50 hours, again if you have job. After my 72 hours that I just put in I get 3.5 days off in a row, and of course that rotates. You get weekends and holidays off I don't.

I work 40 percent more than you do at the end of the year. No matter how you chose to look at it a firefighter will put in more work hours than your average worker and gets paid less than your average worker.

It is easy to set behind a desk and make the remarks that you do, or go into your fast food restaurant and serve food, or even sell shoes and make more than your average firefighter in the City of Wilmington. You must have been one of those who tried out to be a firefighter and could not make it so now you are against us.

That is fine everyone has an opinion, but the next time you have to reach for that phone and dial 911 myself or one of my brothers or sisters will respond. We will not care who you are or what you think of us we will be there to help you and solve your problem or at least make it better than what we found it.

Don't blame us for what the council and city staff have created. It was their lack of planning and endless spending of taxpayer money that has lead to this.

You should really be upset knowing that you are having to spend money for land for new fire stations due to the reorganizing and redistribution of the fire department. Buying land for these new expensive fire station that we do not need.

Instead of listing to the consultants this council decided it was better to listen to fire department staff and close stations reduce safety for you and the firefighters and increase response times for fires and medical calls to you. They are spend more of your money to accomplish nothing but to reduce service and charge you the same tax rate.

Donald Ragavage

Lets talk about those hours

Lets talk about those hours you work again. 24 hours on does not mean 24 hours of work. That means 24 hours at the station house. I grew up around fire houses and as a law enforcement agent have been in many across the state. Huge recliners and plasma tv's, nice kitchens to cook and eat in. Do you think people do not understand what you do. I know training and cleaning and fixing equipment goes along with the down time. Please do not act like you are performing manual labor for 24 hours at a time. We know you get plenty of sleep also. This is comical at best.

not personal

I understand your frustration but do not start judging me. I worked for the state for 17 years as a law enforcement agent. No desire to be a firefighter. Lack of pay also. I left the state for the very reason u are complaining of . Low pay. I do have a job. That is I own two businesses. I work 6 days a week anywhere fron 10 -12 hours a day. Sunday is left to do paperwork and get ready for the next week. I work nights and holidays and get phone calls at home all hours of the night. I am not complaining as I understand that is part of running your own business. I even changed state jobs after 14 yearsto get a higher paying position . Now what do you have to say.

Public service employees...

in this State are never paid enough. As a state employee I haven't had a raise in five years, they can keep the 1% for next year...Those 45-year old "retirees" coming down here from the north with your fat union-gained pensions sure know how to tell the local people to pack up and move to a "better paying" job. Not that easy when you have kids or if you are local.And where should they move to? The north? Nobody I know is moving there for jobs nor retirement! Sure you want Don's job, cause you know it all so much better! Padding that fat yankee pension just a tad more all the while complaining how bad you have it. There are damn good and qualified local public service guys and gals that deserve better pay!
And for you to say that you changed jobs after 14 years for a higher paying position, looks like that lasted 3 years until you screwed something up...

No nothing was screwed up

No nothing was screwed up except still no money. Just took a job which got me to Wilmington and one that was less risky. Plz do not assume you know anything about my state career. I just decided I needed to make more than 50,000 a yr. You might be happy with that trying to raise three kids and send them to school.

re: Really

Nicely stated Don. Imagine if the City had spent the money on your department instead of that which was/has/is spent/being spent on consultants and studies. I do not understand why a consultant is needed to "study" pay issues when we have a staff that can do the same thing. I doubt they're overworked to the point where a few phone calls couldn't accomplish the same result as a $100k consultant does.

Really?

I clearly don't know whether you live in the city limits or not, but I am sure you would rather have a fire truck show up to your house with a few experienced fire fighters on it rather than a truck full of rookies, right? The people who you are wishing would "Leave and get a job that pays you what you are worth in another city or state for that matter" are the ones who are seasoned fire fighters and well trained professionals. Don't get me wrong, I believe there are some really great rookies and I have faith that the WFD trains their men and women well. But, when it comes you your safety and that of your family at two o'clock in the morning when your house is on fire, I would assume you would want the BEST the WFD has to offer!

I live in the county and pay

I live in the county and pay about 2000 a year in property taxes. I guess that gives me the right to at least voice my opinion. To be honest a would rather have the rookies. I lost about $100,000 on my last property evaluation so I would be better off if it burnt to the ground.

Everybody gets so worked about all this and that is just my point. I worked for the government long enough to know they will not pay you what you are worth. You might be surprised what you were worth on the open market if you just put your energy into something else besides complaining to politicians about your pay.