Fiscal court approves firefighter raises

After months of debate, the Clark County Fiscal Court approved a plan to give all county firefighters a raise.

The proposal, developed during a three-hour meeting of the fire department committee in August, saw firefighters, lieutenants, captains and battalion chiefs all get a two-grade increase in the county pay plan.

For firefighters, starting salaries will increase from $28,799 to $31,751 annually. Lieutenants will now start at $35,005 annually instead of $31,751. Captains will go from $33,338 to $36,755, and battalion chiefs will see a boost from $35,005 to $38,593.

The proposal also calls for the fire marshal and training officer position, which carries the rank of major, to be the same pay grade as battalion chiefs.

Clark County Fire Chief Ernie Barnes asked the fiscal court for several months to amend the training officer position in the pay plan and increase the battalion chiefs’ starting salary to $42,549 annually, which would create separation in ranks as well as incentives for promotions. Barnes said he would address salaries for others in coming years.

While that would have added about $45,000 to the fire department’s budget for the year, the proposal approved Wednesday will add $133,755.

Several magistrates, though, wanted to do something for everyone in the fire department at once.

“This doesn’t do everything I wanted to accomplish…,” Barnes said. “It gets us competitive with local departments. It gets us moving forward. We can advertise the fire marshal position.”

The fire marshal and training officer position has been vacant since March, when Barnes, who had been performing those duties, was promoted to chief. Barnes did not advertise the position until the salary and description were finalized.

Barnes’ concern is the major and battalion chiefs are not paid the same. Depending on experience, it is possible the fire marshal could be paid more than the higher-ranked battalion chiefs, he said.

“It may not fix it 100 percent but I think this compromise gets us moving,” Barnes said.

“This goes a long way,” Magistrate Robert Blanton said.

“It was a long three hours,” Magistrate Sheila McCord said. “We all compromised. It’s not perfect but what is?”

Magistrate Joe Graham cast the lone vote against the proposal, which was approved 6-1.

In other action, the court:

— noted the indigent burial of Raymond Clem.

— approved a request to close a portion of Old Boonesboro Road for the Scarecrow Festival.

— appointed Neal Oliver to the county fire department committee.

— declared several items as surplus property.

— changed Perri Wilson from part-time to full-time as an administrative specialist for the CSEPP program.

— approved a resolution for 2019 flex funds from the state for road projects.

— approved the first reading of an amended ordinance for the sale and use of fireworks, limiting use in residential and business areas to around the Fourth of July and New Year’s Eve.

— approved the second reading of an ordinance allowing Sunday alcohol sales at local wineries.

— authorized a repair to the roof at the Clark County Courthouse annex for $14,860 from Roof Services LLC.

— approved hiring Michael Smith and Shannon Townsend as equipment operator’s at the Clark County Road Department.

— approved the second reading of the 2019 tax rates at 9.1 cents per $100 value for real property and 11.67 cents for personal property. The first reading had the personal property rate at 12.07 cents.

— voted 5-2 to spend $2,500 for the Salt Spring Trace historical marker. Magistrates Joe Graham and Greg Elkins voted no.