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Fire board cuts pay of 2 part-timers, adds benefits

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By Vicky Gits

After questions were raised about their wages, the Evergreen Fire Protection District voted to reduce the pay of two director-level, permanent, part-time employees from $70 and $60 per hour with no benefits to $50 per hour with partial benefits. The board also voted unanimously at the special meeting March 21 to add pro-rated benefits for three other permanent, part-time employees, on a two-tiered schedule, one for employees who work from between 20 to 29 hours per week and the other for those working 30 to 40 hours per week. Fire Chief Garry DeJong said the change is expected to save $15,000 this year and about $28,000 in 2009. Christina Griggs, one of the two employees whose pay was cut, said she had no plans to leave the job. “It has no effect on my business or my success,” Griggs said. “It’s always been about the community and doing the right thing. I live here, and I just want to make sure it’s run well. I charge at least twice as much to my other clients.” Present at the meeting were board members Chick Dykeman, Lloyd See, Jeff deDisse and George Goldbach. Jaine Hamilton was absent. The special meeting was called mainly to vote on a proposal to reclassify the salaries of two permanent part-time professionals to be in line with a salary survey and add partial benefits for part-time employees. Fire department salaries are pegged at rates comparable to others in similar jobs, according to a Mountain States Employers Council survey of the Denver area. The survey states the pay rate for a full-time HR director is from $38.35 to $54.71 per hour. The going rate for finance director is also $38.35 to $54.71 per hour. The action was taken in response to criticisms raised at the Jan. 25 board meeting by Goldbach. The professional pay rates for HR director Patti Duncan and finance director Christina Griggs were out of line with the benchmarks used for other department employees, Goldbach had said. Griggs was paid $70 per hour, and Duncan received $60 per hour for about 80 hours per month. As a result of Golbach’s comments, a committee consisting of See, Goldbach, Deputy Chief of Support Services Nick Boukas and DeJong was formed to study the issue and make recommendations. It was a “fair settlement of a sensitive issue,” Goldbach said. “Most of the part-time employees are here year in and out. It gives a buy-in to the part-time employees,” See said. In addition to agreeing to the targeted pay cuts, the board confirmed the fire chief’s proposal to add two more paid holidays for full-time employees. The action adds Martin Luther King and Veterans days, giving fire department employees a total of 12 paid holidays. Part-time employees will earn holiday pay on a pro-rated basis, depending on the hours worked. There are five permanent, part-time employees, including the HR and finance directors. The others are IT director, preplanner and administrative analyst. In other news, DeJong said Mike Schrade was hired as permanent part-time information technology director at $25.50 per hour. The going rate according to the salary survey is $20.89 to $29.80 per hour.