Frederick County, Fire Fighters, Differ Over Pay, Benefits

County Executive says an offer she made was not put to members for a vote.


Frederick, Md (KM) There is disagreement between Frederick County and the local Career Fire Fighters Association regarding pay and benefits. During an appearance recently on “Mid-Maryland Live” on WFMD, County Executive Jan Gardner said she submitted a package to the Association calling for a 28% pay increase over a four-year period, which averages about 7% annually over that period of time, but it was not voted on by the rank and file.

“I actually feel bad that this is where it is right now because I really think these employees deserve a raise,” she says. “And what’s most disturbing to me is that the president chose to reject it without taking his members. I just think that’s a huge disturbance.”

Gardner says these negotiations over compensation follow a pay and benefits study comparing Frederick County with the larger jurisdictions in the state. “The idea was to catch up back steps and to try to put in some position relative to they pay and benefits study that we’ve done. We’re still below some of our bigger county peers, but probably always will be,” says Gardner, noting  that jurisdictions  such as Montgomery, Prince George’s and Howard Counties having a larger population and bigger tax base.

During the 2018 election, 70% of the voters supported referendum Question D, which calls for binding arbitration for the county’s fire fighters in their negotiations with county. But Gardner says legislation needs to be drafted first by the County Council to determine how arbitration will work. “{Councilwoman} Jessica Fitzwater was going to take the lead on this,” the County Executive says. “And Council President MC Keegan-Ayer has announced that they are going to form a work group in June after the budget is done, and talk about what all the options are.”

Gardner says there’s a lot of details to work out. “We have to talk about how an arbitrator will be picked. Some people do a panel. Some people talked about doing mediation before arbitration. And there’s different kinds of arbitration. And so just the whole process and how it would work would be drafted into a bill.” And, Gardner says, that bill would have to go through a public hearing process and maybe some amendments before it’s enacted by the Council.

What can be achieved through negotiation depends on how much the County can afford, according to Gardner. “Negotiations are supposed to be give and take, back and forth, and compromising. Not everybody can get what they want all the time. And it has to be within the ability, in my perspective, for the county to pay for it,” she says.


By Kevin McManus