She says the number of fire fighters has increased since she took office. .
Frederick, Md (KM). Frederick County Executive Jan Gardner described her strong support for the local fire service during a news conference Tuesday.
In her comments, she said the county has negotiated a new contract with the Career Fire Fighters Association of Frederick County which shifts them to a new pay scale based on service. “On average, fire fighters would see a 6% salary increase,” she said. “This is according to the Budget Office which says the range would be from 2.4% to as much and 11.9%, depending on where individuals were on the pay scale.”
Also, Gardner said the county has agreed to the union’ s proposal to implement a revised holiday pay plan. “In addition, I agreed to fund a comprehensive, independent study of fire fighter and medic pay scales, benefits and workloads done by an outside consultant to see how Frederick County compares with surrounding jurisdictions. This will give us the data that we will need to begin negotiations again later this year.”
The contract was presented to the union on April 6th. The rank and file will be voting on it next week.
In a statement, the Career Fire Fighters Association of Frederick County commended the County Executive for her efforts in providing fire and rescue personnel with the resources to safely do their jobs, and make sure members get home to their families after their shift is over. But the Association says the county needs to focus its attention on the fire fighters and EMS personnel who assist local families in their times of need. The Association says the contract worked out with the county is “mutually beneficial for the hard-working taxpayers who foot the bill for emergency services and the fire fighters who provide that service.” It says it crafted two proposals which would saved the county $1-million, but they were rejected.
The Career Fire Fighters Association says it hopes its members “will be allowed to vote their conscience in a manner that is consistent with their beliefs based solely on the terms specified in the agreement, free from any scrutiny, publicity and politics aimed at drawing attention” to the vote.
Also at her news conference, County Executive Gardner said since she was elected, she’s increased the fire and rescue workforce from 335 to 405, which is a 22% increase. She said the previous Board of County Commissioners cut the number of fire service personnel by 35. “Now they simply didn’t freeze these positions when we were experiencing the recession and then move to refill when the economy began to recover. Instead, they actually eliminated them,” she said. “So the SAFER grant went a long way to trying to recover from that position.”
The SAFER grant is a federal program which provided $6.3-million over a two-year period to the county to hire 41 additional fire fighters. Gardner said her budget calls for funding these positions in fiscal year 2019.
What’s also helped is the transition from station staffing to tactical unit staffing. County Fire Chief Tom Owens says it insures that every piece of apparatus, a fire truck or an ambulance, will be adequately staffed when it has to go out on an emergency call. “Service to our community is more effective and emergency responses are safer for our fire personnel under this tactical unit staffing model,”he said.
In order to dispel some rumors, County Executive Gardner also said there’s been no massive loss of fire and rescue personnel leaving Frederick County for other jurisdictions for better pay. “But in the past six month or so, since September of 2017, only four of county’s 405 county fire fighters have left to work as fire fighters in other counties. Two went to Prince George’s County, and one to Annapolis and one to the District of Columbia,” she said. “Now four people equal 1% of the workforce.”
Gardner said she called the news conference on Tuesday to set the record straight. She says she wanted to show she strongly supports the work of local fire and rescue personnel, and to dispel rumors to the contrary which have been posted o social media.
By Kevin McManus