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Council talks fire department pay, future

The Rosemount City Council raised the fire department's pay in 2012 and is set to do it again in 2013. And while there was little argument that the members of the department deserve better compensation, the city council asked staff to put together a plan for the future.

In 2013 the council budgeted to increase firefighter pay from $6 per call to $10 per call. Raising the per-call pay would bring the department closer in compensation to neighboring cities, said city administrator Dwight Johnson.

Mayor Bill Droste pointed out that Rosemount pays more into the firefighters' pension fund, making the city's pay more equitable than it looks on paper.

However, even with the pension included, the department is still on the low end. Firefighters must serve on the department for 10 years to receive pension pay and 20 year to receive full pension pay. Finance director Jeff May said many of the firefighters do not make it to 20 years for a variety of reasons.

Fire chief Scott Aker said compensation and staffing are the biggest issue his department faces. The department had five retirements in 2012, bringing the numbers down to 39. The department's goal is to have 50 members.

While he doesn't necessarily think higher per-call pay will increase recruitment, Aker said it could help retain firefighters.

Going forward the council has some things to consider, said Johnson. He said daytime staffing can be an issue and it's likely the city will eventually need to hire a fulltime crew. Additionally, he said it would make sense to hire a full-time fire chief or fire marshal in the future as well. Johnson said retaining firefighters could help put off more expensive changes down the road.

While most of the council seemed to support raising the per-call pay, Kim Shoe-Corrigan asked the staff to come up with a five year plan to help the council make more informed decisions.

"Nobody is saying the fire department shouldn't receive a fair wage ... but can we get a longer range plan?"

Droste concurred, saying he felt like "we're sort of doing things blindly."

The council will revisit the topic at its March work session. While the council did not make any decisions regarding upping the per-call pay, May said firefighters will receive back pay if the council approves the higher amount.

Emily Zimmer
Emily Zimmer has worked as a staff writer for the Rosemount Town Pages since 2007. She has a degree in journalism from Minnesota State University, Mankato. Outside of work, Emily enjoys running, reading and gardening. You can follow Emily's gardening adventures at the Areavoices blog East of Weedin'
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