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Hydrangea on the Edge of Blooming

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Strange Doings at the Fire District

Now, you are scarcely surprised by that title.  Nor am I.  But last night the Commissioners were faced by a conundrum.  The Fire Chief has a 3-year contract which stipulates that he will be paid $3,400 a month for a half-time 80-hour/month job as Fire Chief here at Point Roberts.  That would translate into a yearly paycheck of almost $41,000.  The Fire Chief says that full-time Chiefs in comparable districts are paid $65,000 and $85,000.  So, $41,000 for half-time is certainly in the ball park.

So where's the problem that the Commissioners need to solve?  Well, the problem is that the Chief actually works more than the 80 hours/month (150 hours, e.g., during the last month).   So, if you want to revise his contract to recognize the wonderful job he is doing (as judged in private by the Commissioners), you could change the Fire Chief's job from an 80 hours/month job to a 150 hours/month job (say a 3/4 time rather than a half-time position) and pay him accordingly at the same hourly rate.

But, for unknown reasons (Meursing says it would be dangerous to make it a 3/4 time position because "soon there would be a full-time Chief"), that is not the route they want to take.  Instead, they want to boost the Chief's half-time job to a pay rate of $53,000 per year instead of $41,000 per year.

By the end of the meeting, the Chief had announced he would accept a contract revision only if it made his half-time job now pay $50,000/year (and then promised to work many extra, unpaid hours to demonstrate his devotion to the community).  And the Commissioners voted to accept his offer.  So, now little Point Roberts with its very large (half million/year) Fire District budget is sporting perhaps the highest Fire Chief's pay rate for small, volunteer fire departments in the vicinity, or maybe in the state.  What a generous bunch we are!

The underlying part of all this kabuki is that the Point Roberts Fire Chief also has a full-time job as a fireman/paramedic at the Ferndale Fire Department.  So, he's working, in hours, two full-time jobs. He does not charge us, he says, for the hours he spends sleeping on the Point.  If he did, it would apparently be more than two full-time jobs.  But we're not going to pay him for the hours he works: just for the first 80 at the new, higher rate.  We're going to accept his extra hours as a charitable act, I guess.  I simply know no good business or management practice that would think this was a good idea.  And I would wonder whether the County endorses its public employees holding multiple full-time or near full-time positions.


Anonymous said...

I wonder what the Ferndale FD would think about their full time chief being a semi/half/partly/almost full time chief here. Alas, they probably won't notice because they're too giddy with happiness now that KRPI is out of their way.

Anonymous said...

Seems amazing to be be spending that amount of money for the Chiefs service!!! Comparing himself to other Chief's in Whatcom County is a stretch. Point Bob does not run the amount of calls that other districts in Whatcom County run. I feel for the taxpayers in Point Bob your getting screwed.