Jackson County

Ocean Springs OKs plan to stop loss of firefighters, police

Ocean Springs Fire Department Lt. Philip Dees, bottom, trains provisional firefighter Chance Seymour on the ladder truck on Tuesday.
Ocean Springs Fire Department Lt. Philip Dees, bottom, trains provisional firefighter Chance Seymour on the ladder truck on Tuesday. jcfitzhugh@sunherald.com

The Board of Aldermen decided Monday night to make salaries for the city’s firefighters and police officers more competitive.

The city has known for a while it is losing firefighters and police officers to neighboring cities that can pay more. It also has lost other city employees to agencies that pay better, but it has been especially expensive to retrain and outfit public safety officers.

On Monday night, aldermen voted to go with a plan to try to stop the loss.

The board accepted the recommendation of its Human Resources and Finance Committee to realign wages of patrol officers and firefighters to become more competitive and compatible with cities such as Pascagoula or the county.

Firefighter and police will be getting basically $1.25 to $1.50 per hour more, city officials said. The plan factors in years of service and experience.

Employees in all other departments were given a 3 percent pay raise, unless they worked for the city less than one year, had received a promotion in the last year or had an hourly wage of more than $17.

According to Mayor Connie Moran, the plan also had input from Patty Gaston, the payroll deputy clerk, and all department heads in the city.

“Since 2011, employees had received no wage increase, which made it increasingly difficult to retain employees,” Moran said after the meeting. “I’m pleased the board recognized the need to bring our public safety officers into alignment, and reward many of our other employees.”

The impact to the budget will be $9,000 from the water and sewer enterprise fund, and about $98,000 from the city’s general operating fund, she said. The board voted to transfer that amount from the ending balance of the fiscal year 2017 budget, which now stands at about $250,000.

The board discussed the issue in open session, not in executive session as was originally proposed.

“It was determined we could handle the business in open session,” Moran said.

The Sun Herald will have more on this as it updates.

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