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To Increase Competitiveness, Bellevue-Dayton Fire Dept. to Offer Pay Increases

The Bellevue-Dayton Fire Department consistently loses staff members to neighboring departments, with low pay being the main deterrent to longevity.

Now, steps are being made to fix that problem.

When Chief Chris Adkins took over at the department earlier this year, four firefighters had left for what he called "considerable pay increases."

"One went to Erlanger. He came to us from Erlanger. Erlanger approached him and offered him a substantial raise and insurance one hundred percent paid, and cell phones paid," Adkins said. "The guy has a 3-year old and a two month-old and it's a no-brainer what he's going to do."

Two more went to Covington and another went to West Chester, Oh. with more money promised.

"A lot of the complaints I was getting was, we just don't pay," Adkins said. "We were the lowest paid department in the county, and ambulance-wise we were one of the top two or three in the county. That's a problem."

The city administrators in Dayton and Bellevue met with Adkins to discuss the fire department, which is funded by both cities and governed by an independent board made up of mayoral appointments from the two cities. "One of the things we were able to come up with is incentive pay," Adkins said.

To start, the fire department will now offer a one-time bonus check before Christmas for staff members with two to four years of experience. The bonus amount would increase from $200 incrementally for staff members with five to nine, ten to fourteen, and fifteen years of service.

"This is the first step," Adkins said. "The fire board and both cities recognize we are losing good people to other departments."

Dayton city administrator Michael Giffen said that the department will also employ a pay scale, something that would be new for Bellevue-Dayton which would allow the department to make lateral hires from other departments without that new hire forced to begin at the usual low starting salary of around $45,000.

"We hope that will allow (Adkins) to, over time, be able to pay more money for experience and merit and everything that goes along with that," Giffen said.

Giffen added that while newer firefighters' pay was below the regional average, Bellevue-Dayton lieutenants made more on average. Captains and chiefs were also below the regional average.

What happens beyond the recent changes will be up to new administrations in both cities. Both Bellevue and Dayton will have new mayors who will appoint members to the fire board, which is made up of two council members from each city and two other independent appointees from each city.

Adkins hopes that the pay scale continues to move in a more competitive direction.

"We spend money to train these guys. We don't want them to turn around a year later and leave," he said. "We want this to be a place where people want to come and work."

Giffen said that the current changes won't affect either city's budget, but when budget plans develop for the next fiscal year, firefighter pay will be a consideration.

"At the end of the day it's about money," Adkins said.

Written by Michael Monks, editor & publisher