Commissioners also approve pay for training days
The crowd before the Polk County Commission on Tuesday evening for their regular session were – at least for a time – happy with a vote the board made to give those who give their time and energy to the force a little extra in their pockets for helping keep local residents safe.
Just ahead of the vote, however, the spectators for the September 14 session had to sprint off to an emergency that proved exactly why they deserve the extra money.
In a unanimous vote on Tuesday evening, the Commission approved of a $20 increase in pay for firefighters and slightly more at $35 for officers (think Battalion Chief and the Training Officer) and will pay $10 for firefighters for attending training sessions and $15 for officers within the volunteer fire department.
The pay increases come after years of a flat fee per call being paid of $10, which is meant to help cover expenses for volunteers who respond and participate in calls, such as gas and vehicle maintenance.
Prior to the start of Tuesday’s meeting, volunteer firefighters and first responders were called out to Highway 27 South to The Farmers Store for a reported grease fire that was out before anyone could respond to the scene.
Those who were hoping to hear the vote came back for the meeting but were only there for a few minutes before radios blared with the tones of another emergency call, this time to a house on fire in Aragon.
Many of the volunteer firefighters who came to hear the vote did offer their thanks to Commissioners before leaving.
Ultimately, officials from the Volunteer Fire Department reported that the abandoned house in Aragon was a complete loss. Many stations from Polk County responded to offer their help in battling the blaze.
Following the vote, Commissioners all agreed they were thankful for the efforts put forth by first responders, especially in the wake of the 20th anniversary of the September 11 attacks in New York, Washington, and in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
Commissioner Scotty Tillery specifically pointed toward those who answered the call during the middle of their meeting with his comments as the session was coming to a close.
“All of our public safety, all of our volunteers – what you see right there is what they do all the time,” he said. “We appreciate what they do for the county on a daily basis.”
Commissioner Gary Martin added that the two calls before and during the meeting were examples of why the pay increase is a necessity.
“They are Johnny on the spot, and went directly to the area they needed to go,” he said.
Of note, Martin did partially oppose the idea of increasing pay for firefighters, but not providing an equal amount of pay across the board for firefighters and officers within the organization. He believed they should all make the same amount.
Commissioner Linda Liles added that it was a long-overdue pay increase for firefighters and was thankful for all they do as well as she remembered all first responders following the weekend remembering the Sept. 11 attacks.