Thursday, June 13, 2002

Firefighters to get pay increase

Published in the Current

The Scarborough Town Council intends to review the pay scale for the town’s firefighters over the summer, and may make further increases in firefighters’ pay in August.

Currently volunteer firefighters are paid $9.27 per hour to respond to fire calls. There are also firefighters and emergency medical technicians who work day shifts in the town’s fire stations, who get paid the same hourly rate.

While planning for the 2002-2003 budget this past spring, Thurlow requested a change in pay rates, with a top hourly wage at $11.50 per hour for all firefighters. After conversations with Town Manager Ron Owens and members of the Town Council, the pay increase was scaled back to $10 per hour, Thurlow said, but with the understanding that there would be a review of pay scales before the next budget cycle.

As part of his budget planning this y e a r, Fire Chief Michael Thurlow discovered that the town’s on-call and per-diem firefighters were being paid somewhat less than those in other towns. Further, private-sector jobs in construction and other skilled work, common side jobs for firefighters, pay substantially more than firefighting, Thurlow said.

“We’re all kind of vying for the same pool” of prospective employees, Thurlow said. Some firefighters have left the department, seeking more money in other departments or other lines of work,” he said.

“The council didn’t feel we had all the information to give the full request,” said Councilor Patrick O’Reilly. In his role as chair of the finance committee, O’Reilly would conduct any meetings reviewing firefighter pay.

“In preparation for that, I’m looking at more than just the base rate,” Thurlow said. As part of his initial budget proposal, he called neighboring fire departments to find out about their rates of pay.

He is now also looking at whether—and how much—those departments, with whom Scarborough competes for per-diem staff, pay for length of time served with the department, level of certification or rank in the department.

Thurlow said he has a draft proposal in the works, and is trying now to figure out what budgetary effect there would be to implement it. That means, Thurlow said, he has to look at each member of the fire, rescue and fire police squads to see where they would fall on a sliding scale of pay.

Thurlow plans to present his proposal to the Town Council’s finance committee in August. Potential outcomes could include a raise in the next budget process, or modification of pay rates in the current fiscal year, Owens said.