Why in God's name did I start this blog. I've committed myself to another project that will either demand too much of my time (success) or that I will ultimately quite updating (failure). I'm hoping for success myself, but that's just me. A gluten for punishment. I've struggled for some type of idealistic first blog, one that would stand out and let the world know who I am. Then it occurred to me, I might as well jump in feet first. So on that note and with a Happy New Year! Here we go.
2011 looks to be a year full of trials and tribulations for the fire service in general and the Augusta Fire Department in particular. The economy doesn't look to be recovering anytime soon and the continued leadership problems plague a once proud department. The economy is forcing more furloughs on all employees for 2011. This includes two 24 hour shifts for fire fighter's. The county has been benevolent though, they have decided to spread the pain throughout the year with what amounts to a 1 1/2% pay reduction from February to December. This is simply the cherry on top for what has been a demoralizing and stressful year at the AFD. It seems as though the AFD or more accurately its fire fighters have become the favorite whipping boy of many in the county. 2011 looks to bring physicals (a good thing) and some type of yet to be shared physical agility test for incumbent fire fighters. I don't mind the physicals, they are a good thing, and could care less about the agility test. It irks me that no other department is being singled out for this, just the FD. Aren't we part of public safety, doesn't public safety include the RCSD, the marshal's department, corrections, and the airport FD? I'm pretty sure it does. I mean they get the same retirement benefits as we do, the get the same public safety raises as we do (which to be fair was only 6 years ago). So where are their physicals? Where are their agility test? Why isn't anyone crying about how they need to be in shape? Oh, and why the HELL isn't our fire chief asking these questions? And on that note, why isn't he answering ours? Pay reductions and furloughs are simply adding to the weight that is dragging the department down. Morale is at a record low, communications between the administration and suppression is non-existent, apathy is running amok, a pay disparity within and among the ranks, and the complete and utter lack of leadership is killing us. The FD is truly experiencing "the death of a thousand cuts" We will be bled dry before too long.
Many times I myself criticize people for bitching about problems but when asked for solutions they stare at you closed mouth with wide eyes like you slapped them. Coming up with a solution didnt' even cross their mind. In the interest of not being one of those people I have a list of suggestions to fix some of the many problems.
1. The local aka "the union" needs to do a better job of communicating with its members, the news media, and the public about the problems and present solutions to these problems. In the very least we (yes, I am a member) need to do a better job of actually being involved in our local.
2. The entire county should be placed under the "fire tax" as it currently stand the "county" residence pay for approx. 75% of the fire protection budget, the "urban" or old city contributes 25%. The cities contribution is also the portion of money that the county administrator can withhold in order to off set budget shortfalls elsewhere. A fire protection district that encompasses the entire county would be fair and equitable for all citizens and provide a revenue steam that would be untouchable by the administrator. The fire department operates within its means, why can't other departments.
3. Clean out that snake pit of an administration. I don't care how. I don't care why. The majority of the problems facing the fire department can be traced right back to administration. Clean house and start over. Get somebody in their working for the department and not themselves for a change.
4. Fix the pay. I'm not looking to become rich on this job but the pay disparity is become obscene. I don't understand how a firefighter can make more than a driver, a driver more than a lieutenant, or a lieutenant more than a captain. Each rank has inherently more responsibility than the last, yet the pay doesn't bear this out. I know that this an expensive fix but it needs to be fixed. Instead of trying to fix it all at once, do it bit by bit. Maybe a 2-3% a year until its corrected. Might take awhile but at least its progress.
5. Leaders. We need them, we have to find them. We have to create an atmosphere were leadership is cultivated and allowed to grow. It seems now that as soon as its found its beaten down in order to maintain the status quo. We have to change that way of thinking.
Well my first blog is done. It wasn't terribly difficult. I hope that if you take the time out to read this that you find it informative.