Denison is looking to bolster the city’s firefighter retention rate and make recruitment efforts a bit easier with an across the board pay increase of 20 percent. Before a packed house, Denison City Council took up the measure at its meeting Monday at City Hall.

Wanting to see the decision come to fruition, firefighters were standing in the lobby watching the decision come over the television monitors.

“This time last year the city manager and I met with some of you and we heard you,” Mayor Janet Gott said to the firefighters after the passage of the resolution. “We recognized then that your pay was below market. Knowing it and being able to do something about it are entirely two different things. We told you then there was no way we could do what needed to be done because the money simply was not there. So, we did what we could while still being fiscally responsible. However, there was a caveat, if you recall, that the moment it could be done it would happen. That time is now. We trust the message is coming through loud and clear that you are a priority and that you matter.”

Denison City Manager Jud Rex said the matter had become a priority for the city following the city’s recent decision not to outsource it’s emergency medical services to a private firm and decreasing the size of the department in the process. Instead, the city leadership decided to address the pay issue by bringing the level up to current market standards.

Rex said the city had been giving out pay raises annual that were falling behind the current market, and the city staff felt it was time to make a major move towards catching up in an attempt to bring on additional firefighters to fill the positions that would have been cut from the department had it moved forward with the plans to outsource EMS. Rex said the city is still facing the issue of retention and that bringing pay up to market was an important step in ensuring the city can be more competitive.

Rex said the city will be looking at other staff pay, including those in the Denison Police Department, when the city council holds its budget workshop on June 28.

“You are all well respected in our community and our citizens depend on the services that you provide,” Gott said of the fire department. “If the truth be known, we probably take them for granted. Because you make them look easy, but they aren’t. We ask just one thing. Take advantage of this opportunity and turn our Fire Rescue into a leading edge department and make it a point of pride for our community.”

Denison Fire Rescue Chief Greg Lloyd said it was a good day for the Denison firefighters.

“We’ve been working on this for some time,” he said. “It started last year with the budget presentation. As the mayor said there was always a commitment to get something done. We’re short on funds. Now with all the opportunity with the growth in Denison, the Council held to their promise and they got us competitive with market which is really what we wanted to do. We have lagged behind the market for some years. I am very excited about what is going to happen for the future of Denison Fire Rescue. It is a lot to ask of these guys, especially knowing the pay that they were making.”

What do you think about the fire department pay raises? Let Denison area reporter Richard A. Todd know at