Jasper, Ala. (WBRC) – Underpaid, overworked and now facing unsafe conditions due to staffing issues, many Jasper firefighters have had enough. Many are now taking their complaints to city leaders. The issue dominated the public comment portion of Tuesday’s city council meeting.
It was a very busy atmosphere. Families are frustrated because they feel that the lives of their loved ones are not valued by the city. Several family members and even some firefighters have raised their concerns with city leaders, all calling for change.
“If you don’t do anything to hold these guys back, someone’s going to be hurt or killed. It almost happened,” said a firefighter.
A fire that occurred last Wednesday nearly knocked down two of the finest jaspers in the line of duty. Some now cite the fact that the department is only 66% staffed as the reason.
“When was the last time the station was fully staffed,” one community member asked. The leader then stood up and replied, “It’s been years.”
The city recently changed the way firefighters could vacation, and that’s when Fire Chief Dante Fields said he warned the council that staffing could become a bigger issue. important.
“In October when we made the change with the vacation system, I stood up and begged, I literally begged, I said I’m begging you not to because it was the only recruiting tool we had considering the salary,” Chief Champs said.
Money, or lack of money, is another issue that many Jasper residents say is hurting the ministry. Entry salaries are not enough to recruit new recruits, and once they gain experience, some leave for higher-paying opportunities.
“The least this town can do if you ask them to risk their lives is pay them at least as much as Sumiton. Entry level at Sumiton is 43,000… Entry level here is 33,000,” said a frustrated parent.
Many simply hope to raise awareness of the issues, but some want the community to step up and pressure city leaders to make changes.
“If you have friends and neighbors who aren’t here today and they’re not watching on that TV right there. Call them and explain them and they will know how we are paid.
The city council authorized the mayor to pay a consultant to study city employee positions and salary information in hopes of establishing competitive pay levels. This study should take place throughout the summer.
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