Police, fire in line for overdue pay hikes

Published 5:00 am Friday, August 17, 2007

Substantial raises are in the works for city employees afterThursday night’s Board of Aldermen work session.

Police Chief Pap Henderson and Fire Chief Bob Watts were inattendance to present to the board their suggestions for newsalaries for the men and women in their departments. City officialshave expressed concerns about pay in those departments inparticular and have been researching how Brookhaven’s pay structurecompares to cities of similar size.

Henderson told the board that he wanted to make sure nobody inhis department comes up short when the salaries for the next fiscalyear are totaled. He spoke some of his officers who had been loyalto the department and how he’d like to be able to tell them face toface that their loyalty had paid off.

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“I want to sit down with each of them one on one and tell them,’This is what you were making, and this is what you’re makingnow,'” he said.

Currently, both the fire and police departments startuncertified workers at $19,800 a year, with a police officer’s paygoing up to $21,900 following completion of the police academy. Thefire department’s first raise goes to around $22,032 after one yearon the job.

Aldermen tentatively approved raising the starting salary forboth departments to $24,000 before certification. Upon completingcertification, a police officer’s and fireman’s pay will go to$26,000, with a raise to $28,000 for the police department afterfive years on the force and a fire department raise upon completionof pump operator certification.

The board was unable to formally OK the new pay structure sincealdermen were in a work session and not a regular meeting Thursday.The new numbers will be factored into the new year budget, which isexpected to be approved in September.

One focus in the fire department was boosting the salaries ofthe shift captains, who are in effect assistant chiefs when theyare on shift. Currently their salary is $36,408, which is onlyslightly above the captain’s salary of $35,842.

The board decided to raise shift captain pay to $41,000 a year,and the captain’s pay to $38,000. A lieutenant’s pay will rest at$35,000 under the current proposed numbers.

The fire chief will be raised from $49,093 to $51,500.

Another important point of discussion was the city’s firerating, which currently at six.

“We’ve got to go up enough on salary so we’re not losingpeople,” said Ward Four Alderwoman Shirley Estes. “We’ve got tokeep our fire rating.”

Mayor Bob Massengill agreed.

“We are going to keep our six fire rating,” he said. “We cannothave insurance rates going up.”

In the police department, which did not have a uniform structureas did the fire department, two patrol officers who have been onthe force over 10 years will have their pay raised to $30,000.

The proposed salary for sergeants was raised to $37,000 and to$42,000 for lieutenants. Captains will make $44,250, whilecaptain/detectives will make $45,500.

The proposed salary for assistant chief will be raised to$49,00, and the police chief will make $55, 750.

Ward Two Alderman Terry Bates said it was time to take stepstoward paying Brookhaven’s Finest.

“This is way overdue,” he said. “We’ve really needed to balancethis … and this is a starting point.”

Massengill said being in line with departments in other citieswas key in his mind, adding that Brookhaven needs to be able toattract and retain good employees.

“I’m not saying this is perfect just yet,” he said. “But we’retrying to get to where we’re competitive.”

Henderson thanked board members for their consideration of hisproposed pay schedule.

“We appreciate it, we really do,” he said.

The board also addressed other salaries across the city, basedupon officials’ Tuesday meeting with human resources expert KenBarlow of the Delkin Group.

Under advisement from Barlow, the city decided tentatively togive employees with under 15 years’ time with the city a 6 percentraise and those with over 15 years a 5 percent raise.

“Those with 15 years or more are the higher salaried for thecity,” said Massengill. “This will give the lower-paid employees agreater percentage on their lower wages.”

He said the Delkin Group had also given the city a plan to savepotentially $3,000 per employee, though the report came in late andhe and City Clerk Mike Jinks did not have time to look over itbefore the meeting.

“Even if it only saves us half that, that helps out a lot,” hesaid.

The city will also raise hourly wages so that starting pay willbe $7.50 per hour rather than $7. Drivers will receive a wage of$8.50, and heavy equipment operators will receive $9 per hour untilthey’ve been with the city 90 days, at which point they’ll beraised to $10 per hour.

“This will be the best plan I’ve worked with for us tocompensate our employees, and I think they should see that,” saidWard One Alderman Dorsey Cameron to Massengill. “We as aldermenappreciate you and Mike (Jinks) working on it.”