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Firefighters Score A Contract in Chesterfield Late Tuesday

Monarch Fire Protection District directors vote 2-1 in favor.

After two hours Thursday, and more than a year in the making, Chesterfield's firefighters and Monarch Fire Protection District trustees agreed on a contract that tweaks paid time-off, keeps base wages flat, and takes into account a $1 million drop in revenue. 

A recent tax hike proposed by the board majority was dropped after public objection.

The 3-year contract agreement is retroactive to January 2011. That means in 20 months the district could be back struggling over another agreement.

Monarch Fire Chief Tom Vineyard said Thursday he was glad to have the contract in place.

"I think it's a win-win," Vineyard said afterward.

In a 2-1 vote, district trustees Kim Evans and Steve Swyers voted in favor of the contract. Robin Harris voted no.

Harris indicated he was unhappy with the cost of what he called the equivalent of 13 weeks of paid time-off for veteran firefighters. (Firefighters work a 24-hour day, not eight hours.) Harris said after two years, it's equivalent to six weeks of paid time-off. 

But in a shouting match outside the meeting, union representatives said the figures were inaccurate, wrong, and just not true. Monarch Concerned Taxpayers co-founder Dick Barber responded that union firefighters "forgot" that they worked for taxpayers, and not the other way around.

Evans blamed the media and Chesterfield residents in the audience Thursday night for "distorting" information about the contract. She said some information had "leaked out." Harris stood by his estimates.

However, some 30 senior Monarch personnel lose three of 18 vacation days under the new agreement, so firefighters top out at 15 paid vacation days, not including sick, personal and bonus days.

Monarch employs about 110 people.

Others members of the self-described Monarch watchdog group said the firefighter agreement was "outrageous" "deceitful" and "a kick in the shins." Barber said firefighters should not be paid more than Chesterfield police—it's about 25-30 percent more.

A firefighter "private" earns $81,241 annually. Barber said a 2010 survey showed 85 percent of fire department calls were for emergency medical services. He said there were 13 fires of any significance in the Monarch district last year.

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In other business, the board promoted three men to battalion chiefs after what Evans called a lengthy testing process: Sean Porter (A shift), Dave Houston (B shift), Bill Long (C shift.)

Four battalian chiefs were abruptly fired last year, and one killed himself shortly afterward.

Also, the board of directors agreed to put the purchase of a new ladder truck on a fast track, saying an older backup ladder had cost the district $51,000 in repairs over 10 years.

Roger Herin April 06, 2012 at 02:41 PM
I would like to respond to the errant information regarding the number of fires Monarch responded to last year. Monarch firefighters responded to a total of 90 reported fires in 2011, 33 of which were building fires and 57 of which were “other” including vehicle fires, mulch, grass and other vegetation fires, dumpster fires etc. All 90 of the fires we responded to needed extinguishment. I am not sure what “fires of any significance” means to the person who stated that, but I am very certain that all of the callers who dialed 911 to get a response from the fire department appropriately realized that the fires they called about were significant. Uncontrolled fire, with enough fuel and air, doubles in size every minute. A small incipient fire can become a room fire in less than three minutes. A room fire can become a fully involved house fire in 5 minutes. This is what happened on Minitree Court and on Fernway Lane last month with devastating results. Also, any outside fire such as grass/mulch, vehicles, dumpsters can and do spread to buildings. No one should think any uncontrolled fire is insignificant – no matter how small it is. Unfortunately, this dangerous attitude is the rule rather than the exception. This apathetic mentality is the reason this country has the worst fire record of any developed nation. We need to change that. Roger N. Herin, Fire Marshal
Overtaxed April 06, 2012 at 03:24 PM
Tom Vinyard says it a "WIN-WIN"? Sure it's win-win when he doesn't have to pay for it. It sure is easy when you're spending other peoples money. I wonder if this guy has ever worked in the private sector? He might have a different perspective.
Jean Whitney April 06, 2012 at 03:52 PM
In answer to several emails: Monarch Fire board director Robin Harris said he calculated the time off by totaling up the hours allowed, since a firefighter day of work is 24 hours. In other words, one "day" off for a Monarch firefighter equals three 8-hour "days," in calculating his equivalency figures.
Monarch Concerned Taxpayers April 06, 2012 at 05:26 PM
Firefighters work 9 or 10 days a month. If they get 15 days of vacation that is equal to not having to work for 6 weeks right off the bat. Add in all of the other days off like Kelly Days, Personal Days and Bonus Days and you quickly get to multi-months of paid time off. Slice it however you want, if they use all days they are entitled to use and put them back to back, they can work January to September and take off the rest of the year and still get paid (taxpayer money). Who in the private sector can do that each?
John Q Public April 06, 2012 at 06:53 PM
That’s like comparing apples to oranges? Harris has to morph the Firefighters work day and carve it up into 8 hour segments to make an exaggerated point? That is phony and misleading at best. He should be ashamed. Doesn't sound like much of a “score” to not get a raise in pay and lose benefits? My research of the history of the firefighters pay indicates that firefighters and paramedics did better in compensation and benefits when Rick Gans, Robin Harris and Michelle Sleet were on the Board of Directors. Go figure.
John Q Public April 06, 2012 at 07:02 PM
Concerned, Please define what a "Kelly" day is, as well as a "Personal Day"? Also, is the firefighter working 9 or 10, 8 hour days? I believe they are 24 hour shifts? That would indicate they work 216 to 240 hours a month. At 240, thats more than 80 hours a month more than I do! Are those 80 hours considered overtime?
Jean Whitney April 06, 2012 at 09:24 PM
Kelly day--the explanation I heard in the Monarch meeting sounded like this: A day, paid on straight time. Harris said back in the day, it was used when someone called in sick for example, and someone was assigned to cover—that covering was a "Kelly" day of pay. It saved paying time-and-a-half for someone to cover with overtime pay. Now, Kelly days are scheduled ahead. Also, there are "bonus" Kelly days, that can be earned by workers, depending on the number of sick days used, directors said.

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