City of Gadsden paying for first responders to get more education; adequate pay still an issue

Gadsden putting resources into station upgrades, training
Published: May. 30, 2023 at 10:58 PM CDT
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GADSDEN, Ala. (WBRC) - The Gadsden Fire Department is getting an upgrade for three stations near Noccalula Falls, Club View, and North Gadsden.

They are also investing in firefighters looking to further their education with licensed paramedic certification.

“This allows a certain percentage each year to try to become paramedics, which not only has advanced skills but does have a raise in pay for them,” says Gadsden Fire Chief Wil Reed. “That coupled with the fact the city is allowing us to send them on duty instead of them taking time out of their own lives to go to school to provide this service.”

These courses will assist first responders with pay raises and promotions, but the city has more improvements in store for the fire department.

“He said no, this is not sufficient for our men and women who are on duty for 24 hours a day. They sleep here, and they eat here, and they get ready,” says Gadsden’s Chief of Staff Brett Johnson. “It’s just not acceptable.”

Johnson says that was the reaction from Mayor Craig Ford as he visited one of the city’s fire stations. The mayor and city council are in the design phases for three stations on land the city already owns.

“They plan to rebuild three of those, which will bring all of our fire stations pretty well up to the current century, as opposed to being way back in the 1950s and 60s,” says Johnson. “We’re already in design on station 5 and station 8. At the Falls and Club View area. We’ve got the survey work being done, and design work will be coming up next in North Gadsden.”

Leaders agree those these new amenities are great, but they still need to work to address the pay first responders receive.

“Our pay for all city employees is not adequate. It’s not competitive,” says Johnson. “So we’re taking a hard look at it across the board. We’re taking a look at our fire service and seeing what we can do. What we can afford fiscally and make sure we’re being competitive, becoming attractive. Also, being attractive to our current firefighters. Encouraging them to stay.”

Pay is something the city plans to look at as they prepare to finalize next year’s budget.

The city also purchased a new ladder truck. Chief Reed says the response to the paramedic certification has been overwhelming. In one week, they are already at capacity for the class set to begin in August.

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