Raises OK'd for West Allis assistant fire chiefs, despite 'top heavy' concerns

Feb. 12, 2013

West Allis - Raises of up to $13,300 for fire chiefs who have taken on more duties over the years but whose pay hasn't kept up are acceptable, the West Allis Common Council has decided.

After the reorganization that has taken place over the years, the city now has four assistant fire chiefs. Upgrading the pay for all four positions is justified, based on the numerical rating system the city uses to calculate pay citywide based on a number of aspects, such as expertise needed and supervisory responsibilities, said Paul Ziehler in a memo to the council.

Aldermen agreed, increasing the pay range by $10,653 to $13,328 for the deputy chief of operations; $6,407 to $8,509 for the assistant chief of emergency medical services; and $3,050 to $3,802 for both the assistant chief of fire prevention and assistant chief of training positions.

The new pay range will be $80,939 to $101,183 for deputy chief of operations; $77,092 to $96,365 for assistant chief of EMS; and $73,335 to $91,657 for both the assistant chiefs for fire prevention and for training.

However, in recommending approval of the raises, the Administration and Finance Committee reiterated its discomfort with the number of assistant chiefs.

Only the fire chief and the Police and Fire Commission, not the Common Council, can change the Fire Department structure. Ziehler said, however, that the Common Council can cut the Fire Department budget next year if it doesn't see progress.

That could take different forms, such as combining positions, redistributing responsibilities or a more extensive reorganization, he suggested.

"At budget time, this council has the responsibility," said Alderman Vince Vitale, who has strongly argued that the Fire Department is top heavy.

"I think the chief could hear loud and clear where the finance committee is coming from," said Alderman Thomas Lajsic.

Fire Chief Steven Hook deferred comment to Ziehler.

But as things stand now, the finance committee unanimously supported the raises, based on the city's numerical standards.

Committee chairman Alderman James Sengstock said he doesn't necessarily support the numerical system of determining pay for positions, "but it's there and until the Common Council changes it, people are impacted and they should get those increases."

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