Raise attempts rejected : Assembly: No to increases for 2 KESA positions

Posted: Thursday, November 12, 2009

Less than two weeks after a swell of negative public opinion arose surrounding large pay raises to his chief of staff and special assistant, Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Dave Carey attempted to increase two more position's salaries.

Carey proposed increasing the Kachemak Emergency Services Fire Chief's pay by $14,139 and the assistant chief by $5,415 in an ordinance he sponsored at Tuesday's Assembly meeting. The chief currently earns $62,000 a year and the assistant chief -- who hasn't even begun working -- will earn $56,634.

The assistant chief will start on Monday.

Carey argued that the positions in question risk their lives to save others every day. That risk is as great whether it's a small fire or a substantial one, he said.

When the assistant chief accepted the job, the salary was satisfactory, said Assemblyman Gary Superman. "I would like to see us revisit some of these raises at budget time," he said.

Homer Assemblyman Mako Haggerty was the only assembly member to support the pay increases.

"The area that they have to cover is substantial," he said about KESA firefighters. "The roads to get to various buildings aren't in great shape. I just think this department needs as much support as we can give them."

Haggerty changed his opinion after Assembly President Pete Sprague proposed an amendment reducing the amount in the ordinance from $82,554 to $63,000.

Sprague said the ordinance has two, separate issues -- pay raises and the need for equipment. Haggerty agreed, calling the personnel costs misplaced.

Besides pay raises, the money was to be used to purchase extra equipment and to remodel the KESA office.

Sprague's amendment, if passed, would erase the amount allotted for raises, $19,554, from the ordinance.

It passed unanimously.

Assemblyman Bill Smith, in support of the amendment, said he was not comfortable with the assistant chief agreeing to work for a certain amount then giving that position a raise. Smith said pay increases should be discussed at another time.

Because KESA, which was created in July, is a new service area, Superman said it couldn't be compared to larger ones such as Central Emergency Services or Nikiski Fire Service Area.

Carey said he hopes the passage of the ordinance doesn't indicate that the risk to a firefighter's life is different in smaller areas than in large ones.

In other action Tuesday, the assembly:

* Passed an ordinance appropriating $6,750 from the Nikiski Fire Service Area Capital Project Fund for the purchase of a vehicle.

* Passed an ordinance appropriating $35,000 to purchase an emergency power generator for the Funny River Community Center.

* Passed an ordinance appropriating $21,725 for the expansion of the borough's recycling program in Homer. The money will be used to purchase recycling containers on the Spit.

* Passed an ordinance accepting and appropriating $126,944 for projects under the Coastal Impact Assistance Program.

* Passed an ordinance accepting and appropriating $1.66 million of stimulus funds to the borough's hazardous fuels mitigation program.

* Passed an ordinance accepting and appropriating $30,270 for the Kenai Peninsula Citizen Coprs Program.

Mike Nesper can be reached at mike.nesper@peninsulaclarion.com.

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