Henderson Helps Police, Fire to Pay Raise

Perched on a hill, not far from downtown is a three-story building that's home to Henderson's men and women in blue.

On the surface, it appears to be a calm and quiet Monday afternoon with the Henderson cops. City Commissioners just passed a pay raise for the department, across the board thanks to a new ordinance commissioners Jan Hite and Jesse Johnston have been working on for several weeks.

But there's a little more chaos across town.

“The fire department, we're struggling just as bad,” Martin says, “we kind of felt a little slighted.”

A potential crisis averted Monday night. Some firefighters thought they may get the short end of the stick. Fear not: Henderson police officers and firefighters will have bigger paychecks next year.

The new pay scale is coming for first responders in an effort to retain talent.

It will take hundreds of thousands of dollars to bump their pay, which some local leaders say is long overdue. But others are quick to point out some apparent flaws.

“Like any job, everybody always feels under paid and under appreciated but in this case it happened to be true,” says Firefighters union president of Local 2290, Jesse Martin.

City commission doubles down on first responders, giving both police and fire a new pay scale that will cost more than $360,000 next year.

However, not everyone is on board.

“All of that adds up to the citizens of Henderson,” says commissioner Robby Mills, critical of how quickly the ordinance came together, near the end of their terms. “It just looks political,” he says.

Mills battled against the new “Hazardous Duty Pay Scale,” which eliminates merit-based increases and rewards police officers and firefighters for staying with the department.

It wasn't addressed specifically at the meeting how the city will pay for the raises, but it's not included in next year's budget. The city will likely have to use some reserve money.

Hite says this ordinance was created in trying to keep police officers from leaving their post. Hite says over the last five years, HPD has spent $1.68 million re-training officers.

“I'm not going to say the men and women that are in this room don't deserve pay,” Mills adds, “I'm just saying the process this has gone through the last four or five weeks is not normal.”

According to Hite, the police department has lost 29 officers in those five years, totaling almost half the force, and the city hasn't had its full complement of 61 officers in a decade.

City leaders hope bumping pay will keep officers in town.

The HPD pay raise and HFD pay raise are separate ordinances. The police pay raise passed Monday unanimously, but the fire pay raise must still be passed on second reading at the commission's next meeting after Christmas.

It seems the goal now is spend money to make money. Henderson hopes to gain the benefit of more veterans on the force in both departments, and avoid re-training officers in what is now a high-turnover occupation locally.

“This doesn't totally fix everything, but it's a step in the right direction,” Martin says.


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