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Augusta Fire Department chief submits salary proposal to public safety committee

Shortages within department spur proposal

Friday, July 25, 2014 7:01 PM
Last updated Saturday, July 26, 2014 2:14 AM
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The Augusta Fire Depart­ment will present a pay raise proposal for firefighters and administrators to the county’s public safety committee Monday.

According to a slideshow attached to Monday’s agenda, the department has lost 140 people in less than six years. Only 39 were because of retirement.

Because of staffing shortages, the department has struggled to maintain the National Fire Protection Association standard of four firefighters per truck.

“You can see the large number of people moving on to another department and it’s largely due to pay,” spokeswoman Dee Griffin said.

It costs about $23,000 to train new recruits to be certified firefighters and emergency medical technicians. A class of 25 new recruits could cost as much as $575,000 to train.

Once those firefighters make their way through training, they will receive far less pay than their Georgia counterparts in Atlanta, Savannah and DeKalb County, according to the slideshow. The department’s lowest-ranking firefighters get an annual salary of $26,844.48. The fire department is proposing boosting the salaries of new recruits to $30,000.

The proposal also would raise salaries of many other tenured employees within the department to reduce pay disparities and align pay with rank, preventing subordinates from earning more than their supervisors.

“It’s in the hands of the commission,” Griffin said. “(Chief Chris James) is fighting hard to maintain the staff and also look after the firefighters who risk their lives to do their jobs while providing for their families.”

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geecheeriverman 07/26/14 - 04:55 am
First assignment

First assignment for the new $50,000-$60,000 PR spokesperson, Dee Griffin, is to smooth talk the commission into giving "other tenured employees" a raise. Beginning salaries for fireman should be raised, but as dichotomy says leave the other salaries alone.

Riverman1 07/26/14 - 06:05 am
About Paying Higher Ranks More

"...preventing subordinates from earning more than their supervisors."

Hey, Dichotomy, don't forget the rest. They slipped that right in and as you say, that's what it's all about. The higher ups want raises.

shelby547 07/26/14 - 06:42 am
Why is it

They didn't have to go before the commission to hire Dee Griffin st $51,000 a year to talk on behalf of the fire department. All this job is for her to try hide James inadequacies as Chief since he knows he has been on the chopping block for a while. I am all for entry level raises but first I think their needs to be an explanation as to the waste of money spent on Griffin

corgimom 07/26/14 - 06:49 am


If there is money for stray dogs, then there is money to give firefighters a raise.

They are an essential part of living in Richmond County. They risk their lives each and every day.

This isn't about higher-ups wanting raises, it's about the embarrassingly low pay that RC pays their firefighters. $30,000 is not an astronomical wage.


If there is money to run an empty TEE Center, then there is certainly money to give to firefighters, that protect lives and property.

rebellious 07/26/14 - 11:39 am
Why oh why?

can't government employees be more business minded? Present a business case with all info for the proper decision with the necessary facts.

Here is how the math works on this instance:
140 employees being replaced at a cost of $23,000 each for training. Let's assume 1/2 of that cost will still remain, whether we train 1 Fireman or 100 Firemen.
So 140 x $11,500 = $1,610,000 over 6 years or $268,000 annually.

At a salary increase of ($30,000 - $26,844.48)= 3155.52 the break-even point is you can pay that additional amount to up to 84 new hires annually.

Present it that way instead of whining and coming to the taxpayers with hands out!

GnipGnop 07/26/14 - 01:31 pm
Thank goodness i will

Be closing on my ARC property soon...I have had enough. Cant pay competitive salaries to workers but department heads don't have to do their jobs and if they finally do get terminated they get a golden parachute compliments of the taxpayer. Does anyone in ARC that doesnt do their job get bad evaluations? It would be funny if it didn't cost the taxpayers so much dang money.

Sweet son
Sweet son 07/26/14 - 03:26 pm
Dee Griffin: $51,000

Why does the 'mouth' of Chief James make $25,000 more than the entry level firefighter? It's because she is as others have said trying to keep the Chief from getting his 'head chopped off!'

That's an astronomical amount of money for a Public Information Officer to make and I bet she can't tell you the difference between a fire machine and a copy machine.

cush1944 07/26/14 - 03:25 pm
"Present a business case with

"Present a business case with all info for the proper decision with the necessary facts."
rebellious, you are thinking like a capitalist/business person. It is obvious that most on the left do not have clue how a business is run. They believe in raising taxes and 'GIVE IT TO THEM' with no accountably on the folks that are running the department. That is reason that so many on the left work for the gov't in some form or another. They would have NEVER made it in the private sector.

corgimom 07/26/14 - 08:48 pm
Rebellious, no, that's not

Rebellious, no, that's not the way it works.

Firefighters are essential personnel. A municipality has to have them. By law, a station has to have a certain number of personnel at all times, or else the station must be closed. And a firefighter has to be trained and certified, and not just anybody can do it.

And if they don't raise the wages, and more and more firefighters leave to take better jobs, there won't be enough employees to staff the stations, and they will close. And the county will be without protection, everybody's fire insurance will go up, and people will lose property and their lives. Doesn't it make sense to pay them more money so that they will stay?

There is no substitute for a firefighter. There is no alternative.

$30,000 per year, for somebody who RISKS THEIR LIFE every time they go out on a call, isn't too much to ask for.

If you have a fire in your house, and everything you own is about to be destroyed, who do you want to respond- somebody with years of experience, who knows what they are doing, and can extinguish the fire quickly with a minimum amount of damage, or a bunch of newbies that have little to no experience and don't know how to fight a fire, so that your house can burn to the ground?

RC is getting to the point where the salaries are so low that they can't retain personnel. And when that happens, every citizen of RC loses.

What price do you put on your life, your family, everything that you own, priceless mementos that can never be replaced?

How much money does RC want to throw away on training people that don't stay, because they can't afford to live on what RC pays them?

Firefighters are some of the bravest people around, and to suggest that they "whine" because they are requesting a decent wage- that's sad.

And fire doesn't pick "left" and "right". It doesn't choose "liberal" or "conservative". Everybody is vulnerable, and it doesn't discriminate against anybody.

If a county has money to deal with stray dogs and an empty TEE Center, and renovate an obsolete building that will still be obsolete after it's done, and have money for arts projects, and old theaters, and symphonies, then it can afford to give a raise to firefighters.

If it can hand $100,000 to somebody to renovate an old building for an "incubator", that isn't needed, it can give raises to a firefighter.

If it can hand thousands of dollars over to an incompetent CVB that can't book a decent convention to save their life, then they can give raises to firefighters.

If they can afford to throw away $25,000 to a search firm, and then decide that they aren't going to make a decision, they can give raises to a firefighter.

corgimom 07/26/14 - 08:50 pm
What "accountability" would

What "accountability" would you like, cush? The results of firefighting are plain to see. Either the firefighters extinguish the fire or they don't.

And they do, so what more "accountability" would you like?

corgimom 07/26/14 - 09:00 pm
But here's some more math.

But here's some more math.

It costs $23,000 to train a firefighter whether you have one or 10, because they have to go to the academy and get special training.

140 people x $23,000. That's $3,220,000 that the department has lost and will never recover. The retirees are to be expected, that's normal; but 101 people in 6 years have quit, they have taken that expensive training elsewhere, and those costs are just gone.

$2,323,000 for 101 people that have just-quit.

That's the math that people should think about.

That alone would just about cover the raise, and the people of Augusta would gain the intangible benefit of having experienced, seasoned firefighters, rather than inexperienced rookies.

corgimom 07/26/14 - 09:03 pm
As for your assertion that

As for your assertion that people in government couldn't make it in the private sector, cush, those 101 people can and did make it in the private sector- which is why they quit and didn't come back.

Having work experience as a firefighter is very valuable, and they have no trouble finding other work.

jlm993 07/29/14 - 01:46 pm
"The private sector"

Some folks here suggest that the "private sector method" would solve this problem. The privates sector solves this problem by paying a decent wage to keep the talent working for them. The issue here that RC doesn't pay the market wage.

Someone suggested that RC make new hires sign a contract to repay RC if the employee leaves before "tenure". Such contracts are common, and they are not legally binding. Such contracts are thrown out regularly. The contract is so weak many municipalities don't even pursue the litigation process.

What it boils down to is there is no piece of paper that you can sign that absolves an employer of their responsibilities.

I would go so far as to say the best folks for the job don't even waste their time applying for RC jobs.

In short if the leaders of RC want to do right by the residents, they will pay decent wages. That way they can attract better candidates and retain them.

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