WEST MEMPHIS, Ark. - West Memphis city council approved the largest ever pay raise package in its history for city employees. This is going to have a huge impact, especially for public safety. The West Memphis Police Department said its officers are going to feel the biggest impact along with the fire department.
Hundreds of workers are about to get anywhere from 7.5 to a 9 percent pay raise. Thursday's meeting was much different from the last council meeting when several council members did not show up to discuss pay raises. West Memphis firefighters and police officers did not hold back excitement after mayor Marco McClendon announced the largest pay raises in the city's history. McClendon said paramedics will see a nine percent increase and at least 7.5 percent for police and firefighters. City leaders said those departments were taking a huge hit because they cannot retain employees with their salaries.
"We've been averaging turnover of about 15 to 20 percent of our department for the last five, six, seven years and when you train a police officer – it takes us from the hiring process to putting them on the street to a car by themselves – it's about an eight-month process," said Assistant Police Chief Robert Langston. West Memphis Fire Chief Dennis Brewer told FOX13 the average firefighter makes about $35,000 a year. He said Thursday's announcement will keep more firefighters in the city. "What it means is we can now compete with the surrounding departments, we can't compete as far as financially. But what we can do is give them a better chance to come here, a salary that is comparable," Brewer said. City workers in other departments like parks and rec, animal control and data processing are also getting raises. Those numbers vary. "I definitely want to make sure the men and women on the lower level get the money because we're trying to retain our officers as well as recruit. The ones who making the most money, they'll eventually get theirs," said McClendon. The pay raises are effective immediately. Those workers will see that money in their next paycheck and they will be prorated from July 1 up until this point. © 2019 Cox Media Group.