While most everyone is excited about the new jobs the facility is adding to the local economy, local emergency departments are growing concerned it may pull from their qualified ranks.
Bradley County Fire-Rescue Chief Troy Maney presented an incentive plan to the County Fire Board at their recent meeting with the hopes it might retain highly trained personnel — much of which training was paid for by the county.
“As you know, Wacker is a growing industry here and they are going to have their own fire department,” Maney said. “So, as we look at the surrounding things Wacker may be doing, we see we may lose people to them, Cleveland may lose people to them and the bottom line is, we’ll either lose people to Wacker or to a surrounding county that Wacker will hire.”
Maney is proposing an incentive plan which will pay an extra amount per month depending on the levels of certification achieved.
Those proposed categories and amounts are:
- Hazardous materials: $50.
- EMT: $50.
- Training committee: $50.
- Swift water I & II: $50.
- Urban search and rescue: $50.
- Open water diver: $25.
- Open water advanced: $25.
- Fire inspector: $50.
At the maximum under Maney’s proposal, a firefighter could gain an extra $4,200 in pay per year.
There are currently no firefighters who would reach that maximum, but there are at least two who would qualify for $2,700.
Most currently fall within the $600 to $1,200 range.
“We spend a lot of money in trying to train guys. There is nothing more discouraging than to get somebody trained to the level you need and then they leave and go to another department because it pays a little more,” Maney said.
“I feel like we have to do something to keep our people and to let them know that we care about them. We care about furthering their education,” he continued. “Is this going to guarantee they’re not going to leave us and go somewhere else? No. It’s not, but at least it’s going to show we’re trying to help them, encourage them and support them financially in trying to retain them here.”
The chief requested the board send the matter to the County Commission’s finance committee for review.
If the plan was implemented immediately, the added cost would be $48,782, which Maney said was in the 2013-14 budget “because of some tight spending we tried to do” to pay that amount.
That amount was returned to the county fund balance where it would have to be transferred back to the fire budget.
“We’re not asking for a tax increase. We’re not asking for any more money from taxpayers. We’re simply saying we can support this,” Maney said. “We’ve tried to really tighten up on spending. We’ve tried to save the county money and in doing that, [have been assessing] how we can help to retain the people we’ve got.”
He said there was a “lot of good experience in the building.”
Maney noted a recent hire who kept up his training as a volunteer while waiting for the paid position to be available.
“He showed he cared and wanted to further his education,” Maney said. “It helped us. Now we’ve hired him. He went to work and on his first day he was on a truck. That’s the type of people who we’re looking to hire and to keep.”
He said the incentive plan may be a “small step, but a step in the right direction to try to help some of these guys.”
Commissioner Ed Elkins said he was a supporter of pay-for-performance and pay-for-knowledge.
“The more experience and the more training a fireman has, the more valuable they are,” Elkins said.
He made the motion for the fire board to make the requested referral to the finance committee.
Commissioner Jeff Yarber said he would support the move “wholeheartedly.”
“This department has worked within its budget with due diligence,” he said adding it would give more incentive to get more certification and training.
“It gives them less incentive to leave,” Yarber said. “The way money is countywide you have to get creative. “This is the chief being creative — finding a way to get the firefighter’s salaries up.”
Elkins motion passed unanimously.
Maney also discussed an open house for the public that is being planned for November.
He said the theme would coincide with the state’s theme of “Get Alarmed” which refers to houses being adequately protected with smoke alarms.
Maney said the plan is to have people sign up for the free alarms and installation help that can be provided.
Board members also got a look at the department’s new command vehicle.