Mt. Pleasant first responders fight for higher pay

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MT. PLEASANT, S.C. (WCBD) – First responders in the town of Mt. Pleasant are taking a stand and calling for higher wages.

A town council meeting on Tuesday had a rowdy public comment portion with several advocates for the fire department and one for the police department drawing councilmembers’ attention to issues they say are happening within both agencies. Issues described include low morale, a high turnover rate, and staffing shortages. They say all of the problems stem from low wages.

According to Mt. Pleasant Fire Chief Mike Mixon, the starting wage for firefighters in town is $12/hour. It was previously $11.77/hour until the town implemented a 2% pay raise for all town employees. That took effect in July.

Some speakers at the meeting said public safety for residents of Mt. Pleasant is at risk due to the high turnover of first responders.

“I know captains are leaving. Where’s your experience? Where are the new people gonna learn if the senior people leave?” asked William Pesature, the VP of the Professional Firefighters Association of South Carolina.

“Our officers are participating in unrealistic schedules that have been abandoned by agencies from across the country,” said one speaker, a former police officer for the town.

Other speakers echoed the comments of previous advocates.

“Firefighters and police do it all. They are the first line of defense,” a former firefighter and Mt. Pleasant resident said.

“We need to pay our firefighters more; it’s an embarrassment that we’re only paying them $11.77,” said another of the previous starting pay.

We reached out to Mayor Will Haynie for a statement regarding the calls for higher wages. He said in part: “I support paying our first responders the maximum appropriate pay.”

A study is planned later this year to evaluate first responder salaries in town and compare them to other municipalities in the region. Mayor Haynie says he is looking forward to seeing the results of that study.

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