Waccamaw Neck property owners express support for firefighter/EMT pay increase.
Firefighters in the Midway Fire District, in the Pawleys Island area, are making an average of $26,900 a year and bringing home about $1,500 a month, according to officials.
Attendees of a Waccamaw Neck Council of Property Owners Associations meeting Monday agreed that pay is much too low for trained emergency workers on whom we depend in times of need.
The Midway Fire District serves areas along the Waccamaw Neck from DeBordieu to North Litchfield.
One member of the audience quoted a study that said a Midway firefighter’s salary is somewhere between that of a short-order cook and a preschool teacher.
Others stated that Midway firefighter/EMT salaries are less than neighboring fire districts, as well as other districts in the state.
Many signed a petition to request that Georgetown County Council raise the fire district’s millage by one mill to help the situation, which would mean a property tax increase of about $10 to $20 for each property owner in the district.
Midway officials in attendance said low pay causes many firefighters to leave in search of higher pay, and the training they received at Midway goes with them.
That costs the fire district, and taxpayers, thousands of dollars for each firefighter lost.
Tom Stickler, president of the WNCPOA, said that if the millage rate is increased it will cost property owners less money than if their homeowners insurance goes up because the fire district’s rating goes down.
There would also be an extra savings because the fire district will hold onto its trained firefighters.
Each budget season, Midway Fire officials have had to budget more for training and less for firefighter salaries, Midway Fire Chief Doug Eggiman said.
He said that in addition to training, the district has to pay a lot for overtime to make up for the firefighters lost.
Eggiman stated that firefighters enjoy working at Midway because of the department, safety, equipment and leadership.
“There comes a time when that is overcome by the paycheck,” Eggiman said.
He said the district has 64 full-time positions. About half of them have been there less than five years and 14 of them have been there less than one year.
Jerry Oakley was the only Georgetown County Councilmember present at the meeting. Councilmembers Ron Charlton and Bob Anderson were invited but did not attend.
Oakley told the group that anyone who feels strongly about this issue needs to show up at council meetings to make sure their message is heard.
He added that it will be a challenge to raise millage in one fire district without raising millage in others, such as Fire District 1 in the rural western part of the county.
By Clayton Stairs
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