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.
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.