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Fire chief's pay raise still controversial

By Staff
Dec. 23, 2001
On the subject of the still-controversial $8,000 pay raise given to Meridian Fire Chief Bunky Partridge, some confusion remains.
The city's human resources director said Partridge was given additional duties related to a southeastern safety center, which is managed by a 4-year-old non-profit entity. The city's chief administrative officer told a reporter the other day Partridge's raise was necessary to keep him from taking another job, said to be in Hattiesburg.
Which story is correct?
Whatever the reason behind the pay raise, Meridian firefighters tell us serious problems continue to percolate in the Meridian Fire Department related to staff shortages, low pay, management issues, so-called "on-shift training," turnover rates and other issues that could and we stress, could  eventually have an impact on the city's excellent fire protection rating. The message sent by about 50 firefighters and other city workers who applauded after critical questions on the chief's pay hike were raised by community activist Bill McBride at a council meeting the other night should be taken seriously.
It would seem that the absolute worst time to have widespread job dissatisfaction in the fire department is when the city is on the verge of beginning to add several thousand new residents, every one of whose homes will require coverage. The fact is there is no good time to have any of the city's stations undermanned or equipment unable to respond quickly due to a lack of manpower.
Meridian's firefighters are professional, dedicated and well-trained. There's just not enough of them.
Sooner or later, it is going to be in the best interests of city officials to directly address without animosity or retribution against firefighters  these problems and find appropriate solutions.