Firefighters' concerns deserve a fair hearing
Dec. 30, 2001
Many Meridian firefighters, who say their low morale is exacerbated by deaf ears at City Hall, have raised serious concerns about issues directly related to their jobs. They speak of staffing shortages, trucks going unmanned because appropriate personnel is unavailable, low pay, gaps in training of new hires.
They tell of top-heavy and heavy-handed administration. They also clearly resent the 15 percent pay hike given to Fire Chief Bunky Partridge at a time when officials said budgets were tight and there was no money to increase the pay of any other city employee. And they, like the rest of us, need a full explanation of why the chief got such a raise. So far, two different stories have been told.
Firefighters have told us they fear retribution if they dare speak their minds on issues. There is no question that Meridian's firefighters are dedicated, committed professionals who love their work. The city could not exist without them and, because they are so good at what they do, insurance rates remain fairly reasonable.
These concerns at the very least deserve an open airing so that the problems can be put on the table and solutions may be found. If the mayor won't do it, and he's shown no inclination to do so, members of the Meridian City Council should convene a public hearing, insist on the mayor and Partridge's participation, invite any firefighters who care to come and any citizen who cares to speak up. The only ground rule should be an iron-clad guarantee that no firefighter who expresses a concern would be punished in any way.
Firefighters are a special breed of public servant. Like police officers and other public safety personnel, they probably deserve more money than the city can afford to pay them. But if public safety is a priority in our community, officials should be willing to listen to their concerns in a public forum and do their best to keep the force strong and its members satisfied with the conditions under which they work.