City council, mayor, firefighters remain at odds
WORK SESSION Meridian firefighters air their grievances at a city council work session on Monday. Pictured are, clockwise from left, Capt. Mike Sims of the Meridian Fire Department, president of the Local 52 firefighters union; Ward 5 Councilman Bobby Smith; Ward 3 Councilman Barbara Henson; Ward 4 Councilman Jesse Palmer Sr.; Ward 2 Councilman Mary Perry; Ward 1 Councilman and council president George Thomas; Mayor John Robert Smith; Council Clerk Pam McInnis; and Capt. David Fason, vice president of the firefighters union. Photo by Carisa McCain / The Meridian Star
By Fredie Carmichael/staff writer
Feb. 26, 2002
Meridian firefighters remained at odds with city leaders on Monday after spending more than an hour discussing working conditions, holiday pay and training.
The result: City Council President George Thomas asked firefighters to regroup and come back with specific recommendations to the full city council about raises and holiday pay.
Capt. Mike Sims of the Meridian Fire Department, president of the Local 52 firefighters union, joined three other firefighters at the mid-morning city council work session.
The session came less than a week after about 30 firefighters attended a formal city council meeting one in which Sims publicly complained about working conditions in the Meridian Fire Department.
Among the grievances firefighters outlined at that meeting: Fire Stations No. 2 and No. 6 have leaking roofs, peeling paint and windows insulated with cardboard and duct tape.
Firefighters voice concerns
Firefighters discussed those concerns again on Monday, this time offering a few more details.
Sims told city leaders that firefighters aren't trained enough despite the fact that he and others keep hearing people tout the MFD as the best trained fire department in Mississippi.
Sims said the department wants to use the local training site more. But he said that one is limited in what it can offer.
During the firefighters' presentation, Mayor John Robert Smith told the city council that he wanted to "set the record straight" on a few of the firefighters' complaints.
Mayor shares his side
Smith reeled off a list of concerns he received from firefighters in four separate meetings he had with them in the past two months.
Smith said he didn't see a reason to spend money repairing Fire Station No. 2 because it will be replaced in the future. He said he tried to work with firefighters to repair the station.
The city bought materials for firefighters to began making improvements, he said.
But work was stopped when firefighters disagreed over pay. The mayor quoted Sims as saying that firefighters on his shift could not make improvements because they were not qualified.
When Sims wanted to talk about firefighters' pay, he said he and others didn't like a merit system for raises because "then you're operating under the good old boy system."
Smith then fired back: "Then why don't you sit down with us and try to structure a merit plan. Why would you be afraid not to be judged by your effort?"
Sims said he wouldn't be afraid, to which Smith replied: "Then let's sit down together and work a system with review for true merit."