Raise too big for fire department

To the Editor:

During a time where everyone is being asked to tighten their budgets, I find it interesting that the Oak Bluffs Fire Chief is asking for a $30,000 raise. Remember, this is not a full-time position. The department is still a volunteer department, meaning that the members receive yearly stipends, including the chief.

The department as a whole is asking for $67,546, 90 percent of which is being requested for the Chief and his deputies. A $30,000 raise for the chief is a 300-percent increase. There are currently three deputies who to the best of my knowledge make approximately $2,500 per year. This means they are looking for nearly 400-percent increases as they would be receiving approximately $9,000 each. (Of note, that would mean each of the deputies would be making the same salary as the previous chief made during each of his 10-plus years of tenure). To me it seems quite unfair that the upper echelon is requesting 90 percent of the money, while the rest of the department would get the remaining 10 percent.

I am not sure how many firefighters there are, but for the sake of argument, let’s say 50. The stipends vary by rank, and again, I do not have exact numbers. I believe the current stipends are about $1,200 for captains, $750 for lieutenants, and $600 per year for the rest. If we take the remaining ($10,546) and divided it evenly everyone would get a little over $210. Again, these figures are not exact, and the amount of increases would be correlated with their respective rank. Do they deserve increases? Absolutely. Should their increases be contingent upon the outrageous amounts being requested by the chief and deputies? Absolutely not. The finance and advisory board voted 4-3 against this article. Could it be because of the inequitable treatment being given to the majority of the department?

These are the men and women that get up in the middle of the night, leave their jobs in the middle of the day, no matter the weather, and save your houses and businesses, and maybe your lives. They keep flooding under control in our streets when we have torrential rains, and failing that, will pump out your basement. They are on scene at every motor vehicle accident, helping victims who are trapped in cars. They are the backbone of the department. Unfortunately for the majority of the firefighters, the way the article is currently structured, it ties their small increases together with the chief’s and deputies. I wonder how they feel about the article?

One of the chief’s duties used to be oversight of the ambulance department. The present chief does not have oversight of the ambulance department. Also, the present chief has a schedule that alternates with some of the other officers in the department to be “on-call” nights and weekends. In other words, the chief is not on 24/7 – which I think is a good idea and very fair, as no one should be expected to always be on call. Taking that into consideration there has been a decrease in workload. A cost of living increase is overdue, but 300 percent?

At the risk of repeating myself, the department is not a full-time department. At a future date, the town may choose to make the department full-time, but as it stands right now it, is still a volunteer department. If we vote these increases in, there is no taking them back. There is a reason that the finance and advisory board voted against this article 4-3. The job may become full-time in the future, and one has to wonder how much of an increase will be requested at that time.

Mary Alley

Oak Bluffs