As president of Augusta-Richmond County Professional Firefighters, I represent more than 200 men and women that serve our community in the fire service.
A controversy erupted recently over the discounted dues afforded to Richmond County public safety employees for using the Family Y. Commissioner Richard Colclough - implying that the 9-11 disaster has been used as an excuse for public safety workers' discounted dues - thinks that all county employees should pay the same amount.
AFTER SITTING through the Feb. 13 Administrative Services meeting and the Feb. 22 Augusta Commission meeting - and listening to the absurd statements made by certain commissioners about public safety employees - I must take a stand for the men and women I serve.
We not only take great offense to, but are also sickened by, the statements "I'm tired of hearing about 9-11" and "That happened in New York City." These are just a few reasons why:
- Tell the firefighter at Engine Co. 11 who has lost function in one of this hands because of third-degree burns while in the line of duty that it shouldn't hurt, as he lives in Augusta, not New York City.
- Tell the firefighter at Engine Co. 13 that is off-duty with pins in his leg because of a building collapse on Fayetteville Drive while in the line of duty that it shouldn't bother him, as he lives in Augusta, not New York City.
- Tell the firefighter at Engine Co. 6 that just had neck surgery - and will never be the same because of injuries he sustained while fighting a fire on Molly Pond Road - that it doesn't matter, as he lives in Augusta, not New York City.
- Tell the firefighter at Engine Co. 9 who was burned while saving a woman from a burning house on Wrightsboro Road - and was hospitalized in the burn unit at Doctors Hospital and underwent six months of physical therapy - that his effort was basically in vain, because it happened in Augusta, not New York City.
That's not even including the numerous injuries and/or deaths that occur in the ranks of the Richmond County Sheriff's Office. All of these injuries are recent and these are just a few of the many we have.
There's a sizable list of qualifications that a doctor has to sign off on in order for one to be employed by the Augusta Fire Department. No other employees outside of the Public Safety Department have to meet such qualifications to perform their jobs.
IF ALL EMPLOYEES are deemed "the same," as stated in the previous meetings, then we should all work the same shifts, get the same holidays and make the same money - and job requirements should be the same. The hiring process for a public safety employee takes approximately one year, compared to one week for an 8 a.m.-to-5 p.m. employee.
This is not about the increase for public safety employees' dues to the Family Y. This is about irresponsible statements being made by certain commissioners whom we vote into office to set policy and make decisions affecting the city we live in. The men and women who serve our community deserve better than that.
(Editor's note: The writer is a sergeant with the Augusta Fire Department.)