Decision on fire coordinator still on hold

Published 11:56 am Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Two plans that outlined annual pay for a fire coordinator and enhanced duties for environmental and permitting officials were shot down by the Warren County Board of Supervisors, ensuring another week without a hint of resolution for the three jobs.

A plan to pay a full-time fire coordinator $32,796 a year and raise annual pay for the county’s environmental clerk and permitting officer died 3-2. Supervisors Charles Selmon, William Banks and John Arnold voted to kill the measure.

Eight full-time county fire chiefs in Mississippi are paid between $40,000 and $59,000 a year. They serve in Harrison, Jackson, Lamar, DeSoto, Lowndes, Madison, Pike and Coahoma counties.

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The recommendation came after a week of back-and-forth talks among supervisors and County Administrator John Smith. District 5 Supervisor Richard George moved for the arrangement, one that lifted building permit field officer Reed Birdsong’s salary by $3,500 and environmental clerk Katie Stanford’s by $4,000. Propose raises result from a board decision in June to split the environmental officer and field duties away from the fire coordinator’s job.

George said the $32,796 figure was a midpoint of sorts between the coordinator piece of the salary and former coordinator Kelly Worthy’s $42,796 pay, which included benefits based on his 20 years in the job. “I doubt our ability to find someone who’d match Worthy’s experience,” George said later.

Moments after the first vote, Arnold asked the board to consider the same figure for fire coordinator and Stanford, but proposed a $5,000 raise for Birdsong. The motion died for lack of a second. Current base pay for the environmental clerk is $26,000 a year. It’s $27,000 for the field officer. Both George’s and Arnold’s motions came after a two-hour closed session that extended to unrelated legal and personnel matters.

Arnold said Birdsong’s duties already involve driving through the county to check for compliance with the subdivision ordinance. It would come with added challenges with the added responsibility, so his salary should be raised accordingly, Arnold said.

“I believe we have a good man in Reed,” Arnold said. “His job is to ride around already, maybe fight a dog and deal with the public. We’re shortchanging him if we don’t (raise the pay).”

The coordinator function paid $21,500 during the past two decades. Worthy, whose duties had included environmental officer since 1994, retired in May. State law mandates counties fill the position with a certified firefighter from volunteer or municipal forces. A deadline comes Monday for a job posting advertised publicly last week.