In an unprecedented move, the town of Essex has blanketed the area with what they must feel is some good news. At Monday night’s council meeting, it was announced that a new four-year agreement has been reached between the town and its volunteer firefighters.
The announcement, which frankly seems like a public relations smooch to make nice with those who answer the bell, is smack in the middle of a third-party investigators report which is due sometime in March. Mainstream media across the region reported on the four-year deal which also includes a title change from auxiliary to probationary firefighters.
Some veteran firefighters said that this is the first time the town has publicly announced any wages and benefits agreement with the volunteers. Many heard of the deal through the media.
“This agreement is a positive step forward for both the town and our firefighters,” said Essex CAO Donna Hunter. Indeed $1.04 more per call that District Chiefs, Captains, and firefighters will receive, and an additional 62 cents per overtime, are good news.
There is no change in the retainer for any firefighters over the four-year deal, which will expire November 30, 2021. Retainers for a District Chief, $4,300, Captain, $1,500, and Firefighter, $1,000, will remain the same with no increase.
There are about 60 volunteer firefighters in Essex.
“Both Council and administration recognizes the important role our firefighters play in protecting our residents and we’re glad to reach an agreement for the next four years,” said Hunter. However, while the new deal has been reached, firefighters, and especially those at Station No. 1 in Essex, are anticipating the investigator’s report will shed some light on morale issues.
Other good news on the fire department front includes Chief Rick Arnel being acknowledged by council for recently receiving a Canada 150 Medal.
“Rick is a talented and knowledgeable Fire Chief and our community is safer thanks to his leadership,” said Essex mayor Ron McDermott. Arnel has been the town’s Fire Chief and Community Emergency Management Coordinator since January 2015.