Brusly’s WBRP Fire Protection Sub-District #2 commission voted to raise the Brusly Fire Chief’s salary from $22,000 per year to $27,000 per year.
The decision came after a lengthy discussion about a budget line item giving the chief, Mike Alleman, a $29,000 raise, to $51,000 with intentions of changing the position from a part-time job to full-time.
Kenny Hunt, Brusly Fire Department employee, explained to the commission before the vote, that the budget “increased personnel cost for movement of the fire chief to full-time.”
Alleman took over in 1999 as the chief of the Fire Sub-District #2, or the Brusly Fire Department as it is known.
“He turned our whole fire dept around. We are one of the leaders in the state as far as ratings, and as far as innovation in training,” said Hunt. “We have one of the best training departments in the state.”
Hunt praised Alleman, saying that his leadership caused the department “to be one of the leaders in the parish as far as response,” claiming that the department holds the best response times parish-wide.
“I’m going to tell you, for a boss and making sure that those volunteers are happy… there is no better,” Hunt said. “We’ve got to compensate him more than $22,000 a year for what he does.”
The board of commissioners agreed, but said that a raise to $51,000 would be too drastic in a time when the future of sub-district is unknown.
There is currently a bill going through legislation that, if passed, will consolidate all six West Baton Rouge Parish Fire Sub-Districts into one district. There is speculation that with one district, there will be one fire chief in charge of the entire district, but it is unknown at the time, as the bill has not yet been passed.
“I just don’t know if we need to make that drastic of a change prior to the fire sub-districts going into one district,” said Scot Rhodes, commissioner. “That’s a big change that’s going to add a lot of issues to the parish fire district when they start breaking down what they’re going to do, who they’re going to pay, how much they’re going to pay.
“I don’t know if we need to do that now.”
Commissioner Don Neisler echoed Rhodes’ sentiments.
“I’ve always been proud of the Brusly fire department and personnel. I think they’re first class; they have been in the past and are now. But I just don’t think this is the time based on where we’re headed in terms of a one department for the parish,” he said. “I know he’s spending more time here now and we appreciate that. And I think he needs to be compensated for it, but I don’t think the compensation should go way beyond what we pay our chief of police or our mayor, your chief elected officials.”
Alleman said that, until recently, he held another job full-time, and said that “now I have retired from that job, and I’m dedicating all my time to this department.”
Hunt said that since Alleman retired from his other job, he has, in fact, been completely committed to the fire department.
“To date, he’s working Monday through Friday, eight hours a day, just like a paid full time chief,” Hunt said.
Alleman said that he will continue to be the best chief he can be, no matter the board’s decision.
“For 35 years I’ve given to this department. I will be your fire chief, whether it’s full-time or part-time, as long as you and those people that work under me want me here,” he said. “And I’ll do the same job I’m doing for the money I’m making now. When it comes down to it, the responsibility falls down on my shoulders. All I’m asking for is compensation for that.”
Members of the commission said they understood and agreed that Alleman was deserving of a raise, but maintained that the timing wasn’t right for such a drastic raise, from $22,000 to $51,000.
“I don’t think anybody questions your dedication,” Joanne Bourgeois said to Alleman during the meeting. “If this was just a personal decision I would say go ahead, but I don’t think this would be the right time to appropriate this amount of money.”
Rhodes agreed, adding that he wanted to do what was best for the community and for the people of the parish.
“There’s no question as far as his integrity and his caring and his ability on what he’s done for our fire department. From a personal standpoint, I wouldn’t want anybody else.
This is not a personal attack that Mike’s not doing his job or he’s not worth that amount – that’s out the window,” Rhodes said. “Mike’s worth $100,000, but from a budgeting standpoint from representing the citizens, in my opinion, I just think that’s a big jump, and I’m not sure that the full-time chief is what we need right now.”
Hunt disagreed, saying that having Alleman as a full-time employee is exactly what the department needed, and stayed steadfast that Alleman was deserving of a raise.
“He’s a substantial person on the fire crew. I think he should be paid at least what our minimum guy – our youngest guy – is making,” Hunt said. “ I think he should be compensated, at least $32,000. That’s the bare minimum.”
Joanne Bourgeois made a motion to adopt the budget and delete the line item about the chief’s salary to discuss at a later meeting.
After Bourgeois’ motion did not receive a second, Neisler motioned that the budget be adopted, but the chief’s salary be changed to $27,000. Rhodes seconded the motion and the commission unanimously voted to adopt and approve the budget.