Last week, comments made at the Fayetteville City Council budget meeting caused the city manager to apologize to the firefighters who attended the meeting.
There were over 100 firefighters that came to hear the apology.
The controversial remarks were made by Councilman Chalmers McDougald and Mayor Nat Robertson. They said that firefighters can do part-time work in their off time and only have to work 120 days a year.
According to the Fayetteville Observer, McDougald said, “The guys love these kinds of jobs”
Mayor Nat Robertson then added, “It's like being retired and still working.”
After an audio recording of the meeting was posted to YouTube by the city, several emails were sent to the city council, mostly from the spouses of firefighters. The emails claimed that the remarks were both derogatory and insulting.
Robertson said that he was only joking and added, “Our firefighters have real concerns, and this council is starting to address them.”
The negative reactions about the comments underscore the discontent over the absence of a pay step plan for the Fire Department.
The Police Department has had a pay step plan since 2006 that makes sure that lower-ranked officers will get raises of at least 4 percent every year.
Robertson claimed he did not know about the issues that the firefighters had about their pay and said at the Monday meeting that he appreciated their service.
In a budget proposal for 2016, it was suggested that the minimum salaries for all firefighters be increased, except for the fire chief.
This proposal will also have some firefighters getting double-digit percentage pay raises next year. However, certain upper-ranked firefighters would only get raises of less than 1 percent next year.
The association's letter says that the proposed new plan of paying the firemen is “too little, too late.”
On June 8, the city council is scheduled to vote on a new budget before the new fiscal year begins on July 1. City Councilmember Bill Crisp asserted that the council must address the new plan because of the strong negative reactions from many of the firefighters. McDougald also stated that he understood why the Fire Department feels like they are being unfairly treated.
McDougald added, “It's an important fire service, and we cannot do without them.”