St. Paul’s Fire District says low pay is impacting safety

Firefighters in St. Paul’s Fire District say they don’t make enough money, and the community is suffering because of it.

Firefighters say they aren’t in it for the money, but as St. Paul’s Fire District administrator and former firefighter,  Kiva Sanders, explains, “I’m from Hollywood, a lot of the guys that work here are from Hollywood, so we’re not only protecting people that we don’t know, we’re protecting our families as well.”

In St. Paul’s they are protecting the community for barely minimum wage, with starting pay at $9.72/hour, that’s $26,500/year. Starting pay for the City of Charleston is about $1.20/hour more, and adds up to $33,700/year. St. Paul’s Fire District says it’s no surprise that the lack of competitive pay means the staff in St. Paul’s is dwindling.

Sanders says, “Our staffing is at an all time low. We have currently lost 5-6 employees due to lack of pay.”

So each station only has one firefighter working at a time, two tops. This means those still on the St. Paul’s payroll are risking something much more costly.

Rev. Eric Mack, candidate for House Seat 116, says, “We have to bring about a better change in the salary, we have to bring about a change in Hollywood and making sure we are fully staffed and never run the risk of someone losing their lives simply because we do not have individuals manning our fire station.”

News 2 left a message for the Mayor of Hollywood and never got a call back, but firefighters say it will be a community effort across the district and possibly a tax increase to get the money they need.

Sanders says, “It’s Megett, it’s Hollywood, it’s Ravenel, all of them have to come together. I went to the County Council meeting on Thursday and they said there’s nothing they can do for us. Because we are a special purpose district, our funding doesn’t come from Charleston County, it comes from the tax payers. So, it’s up to our legislative branch to go to Columbia and fight for tax raises and fight for us to get us more money.”

And they say it could pay off for the local homeowner too.

Community activist Jerome Heyward says, “When you’re understaffed, that means the premium on your house goes through the roof.”

To further discuss how to raise the salaries for the St. Paul’s Fire District, a town hall meeting will be held on Tuesday, April 19th at 6:30pm at Station One (6448 Hwy. 162 Hollywood, SC 29449).

 

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