Among the items discussed at Tuesday’s meeting of the Covington’s Finance & Administration Committee was the discussion regarding the proposed change to the ways in which firefighters would accrue time off.
First discussed two months ago, the change would have reduced the number of vacation hours firefighters accrued. Some believe it is not currently equitable because the city’s 40-hour employees accrue it at a lower percentage.
They used to work 16-hour shifts and changed to 24-hour shifts six years ago. Compared to the eight-hour employees, they’re accruing time off at a rate of 10 percent to everyone else’s 4.6. Firefighters can accrue enough time off that they receive a payout when they retire, which can be expensive.
Firefighters packed the conference room Tuesday and Nick Tindall and Lee Wallace were two of several who spoke up, comparing the department’s actual annual time to the numbers the city received from the Municipal Technical Advisory Service.
“The numbers are wrong,” Tindall said.
“To us, the numbers aren’t right, they’re wrong across the board.”
Covington Comptroller Tina Dunn said her numbers just compared a different portion of the year.
Fire chief Richard Griggs also spoke out, saying the change would likely create a problem with retention he does not currently have.
“I’m asking you not to change anything at all with the 24-hour accrual.”
Seemingly frustrated by the proposal, vice mayor Johnetta Yarbrough said she didn’t want to take anything away from the firefighters.
Several discussion points included comparisons between the fire department and other municipal employees, such as the length of a firefighter’s 16-hour shift to the 8-hour shifts of most other employees and the amount of danger faced by public safety personnel.
“Why are we trying to make it compatible? Because it’s not compatible,” Yarbrough asked.
The board voted unanimously to keep the accrual rate as is.
Firefighter Jeremy McDivitt reassured everyone there were no hard feelings.
“We don’t hold a grudge,” he said.