Church Hill BMA changes firefighter pay situation at mayor's request

Jeff Bobo • Jun 25, 2017 at 4:30 PM

CHURCH HILL — Church Hill's fire department is comprised mostly by city employees who are on call to answer fire calls, even when they are home on vacation.

Mayor Dennis Deal told the Board of Mayor and Aldermen during Tuesday's meeting, however, that he recently became aware of a firefighter pay issue that he believed was unfair.

Ordinarily, firefighters are paid time and a half for responding to fire calls.

But if they don't work 40 hours in a week, such as when they're off taking vacation time or if they had taken a sick day or personal time earlier that week, that time and a half benefit didn't kick in.

"What I recommend is, no matter what you work in a week, if you come to a fire call you get overtime," Deal told the board. "The reason for that, if we ask these people to carry a pager and be on call for a fire call, some of them come when they're on vacation. We had one officer who was off a couple weeks ago, and I think he attended three or four fire calls. Come to find out, they don't get overtime for it."

Deal added, "All I'm saying is, if we're going to hold you accountable to attend fire calls, then I think they need to be compensated for it."

The BMA voted unanimously in favor of Deal's recommendation that full-time employee firefighters who attend fires always be paid time-and-a-half.

The only employees who are exempt from that benefit are salaried public works director and CHFD Capt. Brent Robison and salaried Police Chief Mark Johnson, who also serves as Public Safety director. Robison and Johnson each receive payment of $30 per fire call they attend.

In other business Tuesday, the BMA:

* Approved the second and final reading of the 2017-18 fiscal year budget with no tax increase.

The BMA is using $1.2 million in savings to balance the 2017-18 budget, including $1.1 million for the new 65-acre Holliston Mills Road park project.

The tax rate will remain the same at $1.1034 per $100 of assessed property value.

The city's $4.911 million budget is projected to end the 2017-18 fiscal year with about $287,000 in reserve.

Church Hill's expenditures will be down in 2017-18 by about $550,000 from the current fiscal year, partly because the city purchased five new Chevy Tahoes for the police department in 2016-17.

There's also substantially less locally funded paving in the 2017-18 budget. The city will be paving two sections of Loyds Chapel Road and a section of Harper Avenue.

The only other major capital outlay project this coming fiscal year is paving Kingsport Press Road, although 80 percent of that $350,000 project is being paid by the state.

The local match for the Kingsport Press Road paving is projected to cost $65,000 to $70,000. The BMA also approved a 2 percent pay increase for city employees.

* Appointed Emily Wood as the new city recorder and treasurer, replacing longtime recorder Mark Sandidge, whose retirement took effect last month. Wood had worked as deputy recorder with Sandidge for the past year learning the job.