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Wilmington firefighters and police push for higher pay

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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) -- Wilmington firefighters and police officers are demanding better treatment and fair pay from city leaders.

Dozens of first responders and their supporters picketed in front of City Hall and then took their frustrations before City Council.

"We are at our wits end. We are forced to do this,” said Ross Raper with Police for a Safer Wilmington.

They said with years of low pay and a higher cost of living, including costly health insurance, they are done keeping quiet.

"I'm tired of listening to people say everything is going to be OK. It is time to take this into our own hands to let them know this is important to us,” said Thomas Tilmon.

Tuesday firefighters and police officers came together with one voice to work towards obtaining the change they feel they deserve.

“We've stood by and toted the party line as they asked us to just bear with them, and that's what we did,” said Raper.

Responders said low pay is to blame for the turnover rates in both departments. They said wages give employees little motivation to stay. A consequence that is also costly to citizens.

"We've been working shot handed for quite some time now and it’s getting a little taxing. It needs to be fixed,” said Tilmon.

After protesting for about an hour, the group then filed into the City Council meeting.

City leaders recognized the Fire Department for its accreditation. An accomplishment the department worked for five years on to receive.

Firefighters say this is an honor only 190 stations hold out of the 35,000 across the country.

"We are one of the best fire departments in the country. We should be willing to pay them that way also,” said Battalion Chief David Hines.

In some cases workers are paid 28% less than cities comparable to the Port City.

Battalion Chief Hines guesses if Council brought salaries up to what the market suggests it would require a significant tax increase.He said leaders need to step up where they can.

"You have to take small steps at it. Whatever they can do will be appreciated,” said Hines.

Tilmon went before Council to articulate the group's concerns. City Council responded with a standing ovation along with the rest of the audience.

A spokeswoman for the city said Council discussed the pay issue at its budget work session on Monday.

She said the issue is one of Council’s top priorities for the next fiscal year’s budget.

Meanwhile, firefighters and police officers say they plan on protesting before every council meeting until the budget is approved.

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Wilmington Has Lost Its Soul

Many City of Wilmington employees can't afford to live in the city in which they are employed. Recent studies have shown that the money needed to rent or pay a mortgage in Wilmington, NC is over $15.00 per hour. I was born and raised in Wilmington and have worked for the city for over 23 years. I've witnessed the substantial growth here, the real estate market balloon to astronomical property values as well. Supply + demand + greed = unaffordable housing for many, to include firefighters, police officers, and teachers as well as a host of others.
Wilmington was once a great place to live and at one time was affordable. Industries have left, outsourcing of jobs to foreign countries because of congressional votes (NAFTA, e.g.) have lead to its demise. Beautiful beaches have been overtaken by outsiders who use it as their waterfront vacation paradise in their McMansions.
I generally don't complain about my pay as a firefighter. No, I decided last year to do something that I could in the immediate. I've two college aged children that I'm helping pay tuition for school. I decided that if I'm going to survive and have any retirement then I'd be better off leaving New Hanover County. I'm moving almost an hour away. I'm going to be moving to Pender County where I will live and be working my second job. Homes and land out there is in places one half of that of New Hanover County. I'm glad I'm leaving this town. It's a service industry town. That doesn't help matters when it comes to keeping pace with the times. I won't miss Wilmington. It's not the same town in which I was raised. I'll be coming back to work my 24 hour shifts in my 25 year old Honda. Yeah, I live a real extravagant life. (Sarcasm) I will feel sad for those here who are losing the battle in poverty or near poverty, trying to make a life in Wilmington. Were I younger in my department I would be seeking other fire departments in which to work. I've just over six years left.
I'm not just leaving Wilmington but Wilmington is leaving its employees in its quests for real estate and more residents. Grow as it will but the cost of losing firefighters and police officers to higher paid departments will translate into more money lost through that means than through bringing the remaining up to the standard with other cities of the same size.

WFD/WPD pay increase

The fact that 11% of the city if Wilmington's budget goes towards transportation (http://www.wilmingtonnc.gov/Portals/0/documents/Finance/Budget/FY%2013-1... page 12) is a joke, they should cut that down to 2 or 3 percent. While I do not live with in the city limits I have taken the bus (I have my own car and chooses to take the bus to see the city handles bus transportation). The transportation in this town is a joke, if you travel to any major city you will find that each city has a far superior transportation. For any person that does ride the bus regularly they have noticed that half of the bus stops don't even have covering form the elements or a place to sit down and wait for the bus that takes an hour to come back around. If the city did improve transportation, ie adding benches,protection form the element, maybe even an app to to find when the bus will arrive or where the bus is (http://www.thebus.org/) I can see the 11% but until then, lets let that money go toward WFD/WPD.

Change Jobs

These people know Obama's economy sucks and no one is getting ahead. Yet, they demand the taxes be raised so they can have what the normal taxpayer does not get either. People forget Police with experience are issued a car and they can use it for personal errands and we get to pay for the gas, maintenance and insurance. That is worth at least a couple of thousand a year. Firefighters and Police have no more dangerous a job than anyone else. How about a lone Correctional Officer responsible for 65 inmates in a dorm which goes on everyday in our Prison system. They have nothing but their good common sense to keep order. If my taxes are raised my vote will be for anyone not currently on the city council!

Be careful what you ask for

If citizens are happy with a Department that is far below market value compared to other NC cities, happy that senior experienced officers leave for other job, hire sub par new officers, and has a demoralized police and fire department then let them just sit back and watch the train wreck that develops.
If they are happy that their city council funds pet projects that makes themselves more wealthy but leaves city employees behind then do not expect even mediocre customer service.
Teachers, Fire Fighters, Police Officers do not go into these lines of work expecting to be wealthy. They just expect FAIR PAY and FAIR treatment.

http://www.starnewsonline.com

http://www.starnewsonline.com/article/99999999/MULTIMEDIA/120429823

Sgt. Tilmon is an outstanding sergeant. He is one of the best. He makes over $58,0000 per year. And, I believe, that does not include overtime, and the money he earns, teaching. The benefits could be better. But they are, at least, benefits.

If you hit the top link, and go down the line, you will see most police officers and firemen, are making more, with the inflation adjustment, then what they made, 25 years ago.(But 25 years ago, they did not have to pay for insurance.)

The starting pay, in 1988, was $14,500. http://www.usinflationcalculator.com/
According to the calculator, that is slightly less then $29,000, today.

But taxes, and insurance, are higher today. They also, did not have take-home cars, in 1988. So, all in all, there's not a dimes difference, between what it is now, and what it was 25 years ago. Or what it will be, 25 years from now.

And I've seen this exact same rodeo. On two other occasions, in the last 25 years.

All these firemen, policemen

All these firemen, policemen and teachers knew what the respective payscales were when they decided to become such. When teachers started making noise about pay, I guess every other citizen-paid employee figured they should jump onto the bandwagon. Maybe they haven't heard that NC has lost more jobs than any other stste recently, according to reports. Raises will mean more taxes and many can't afford what they are paying now. If these greedy folks want more money, let them move somewhere else with higher pay scales. Many are overpaid now, judging from some of the reports. They should be thankful they have jobs. We're all in this together. Wait until times are better.

I don't think either fire or

I don't think either fire or police are even in the top 10 (most dangerous jobs)? Driving a taxi cab is far more dangerous than being a LE. Heck they're the ones with the guns, assault rifles, tasers and attack dogs!
As of late it seems that you are in far more danger being a citizen than a LE officer.
Suck it up and deal with I say or find a new profession.

So you think it's an easy

So you think it's an easy job with no risks huh. Are you willing to step up to the plate and take a few swings , or you just gonna scream from the top of the bleachers at the player's on the field. Go for a ride along with a cop or firefighter or even a paramedic for a weekend. You might realize the challenges and stresses that comes with the easy job. So pal do you have the testicular fortitude to ride along?

Be informed

Be informed before you form opinions. This isn't about getting a raise. If you read a little deeper, its the fact that the cost of living has gone up, insurance premiums for police/firefighters have climbed tremendously, and now the city is reducing benefits again. On top of that, new hires are actually making more than those on the job for years. This equals an actual REDUCTION in pay, not even maintaining the same salary they had 5-6 years ago.

Why does this effort equal higher taxes? In what way! The city wanted to invest in a baseball team for Gods sake! We've had a 6 million budget surplus! If you hear "more taxes" its a scare tactic! You're being misled.

These guys and girls don't have "normal" jobs where there are average risks. The risks they come up on fight back, shoot at them, expose them to toxic smoke/fumes, or burn them. To put themselves out there for you is their choice, you're right, but to knowingly reduce support and benefits is just wrong.

You as citizens are losing whether you see it or not. Every time an officer leaves, years of experience and training, that you've pay for by default, leaves. Your investment in this city is walking because other cities will pay for that training and experience because of the investment return. Its so much cheaper to hire one of our officers than to start from scratch, but amazingly, our city manager and mayor can't see it!

Its way more than a pay raise, please read into this.

Amen

I agree. I don't complain about not getting a rasie, I have not had one in over 5 YEARS!!! I know that these fire fighters and police have a dangerous job, but you knew the danger when you applied for the job. Not to mention, police and fire fighters don't work the typical 5 days per week.... most that I know work 4 days per week. That extra time off is a treat. I have not had a vacation in 3 years much less time off during the week. You signed up for the job, just be thankful you still have one under this terrible president.

Face it, you are a loser.

Face it, you are a loser. You haven't had a raise in 5 years, haven't had a vacation in 3, yet you dont say a word. You are EITHER comfortable being a loser, so completely unskilled that you can't get another job, or just flat out don't have the guts to ask for what you are worth.

That's a YOU problem. No one cares that you don't complain. No one cares anything about how little you value yourself. These men are valuable, and they are fighting for what they are worth. You, obviously, ARENT valuable , and have no reason to fight for anything more. If you were, you would.

Nice reply

I haven't had a raise since 2007. Yes I would like one, but I believe those that keep us safe deserve one before I do. I work a desk job while these men and women have to deal with the scum of the earth on a daily basis. They miss Christmas, New Years, 4th of July, and other holidays with their families. 4 day work week? Yea right, not exactly when you figure in training requirements, back fill, and covering for sick co-workers.

I'm sorry you haven't had a raise. I'm sorry for me too, but keeping low wages turns wilmington into nothing more than a job training program. As soon as a better wage comes along they bolt. I don't know anything about the benefits they have but if it is anything like I have seen with my benefits, pickings are getting more expensive.

Pay does not line up with the quality of impact on the lives of others. But it should at least try to be fair.

They only work 4 days a

They only work 4 days a week? Are you kidding me?? You failed to mention that in those days, they are working 12-24hour shifts, working nights, working mandatory OT because of manpower shortages and lets not forget holidays and weekends when most people with "normal" jobs have the time off. How are those 4 days a week looking now? Looking desirable to you? Looking like a schedule you want so you can have your vacation time that these officers and firemen apparently seem to get because of their luxurious schedule? Ohhh and let me not forget the officers and firemen that work second and third jobs just to support their families and make ends meet. Days off? What exactly are those? Please explain.