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City of Deming and the fire department reach agreement over wages

DEMING, New Mexico -- After a two month long battle, the city of Deming and its firefighters have reached an agreement of a 9% wage increase.

Here's what that equals out to:

• Firefighter/EMT Basic moving from $12 to $13.16 per hour.

• Firefighter/EMT Intermediate from $12.84 to $14.

• Firefighter/EMT (paramedic) from $13.60 to $14.82.

• Lt. Firefighter/EMT Basic from $13.85 to $15.10

• Lt. Firefighter/EMT Intermediate from $14.62 to $15.94.

• Lt. Firefighter/EMT (paramedic) from $15.38 to $16.76.

When this was announced during Tuesday's city council meeting, people on both sides were vocal about what they think the fire department does and does not deserve.

"Every human being in this room is here because they understand what is going on is wrong, it is morally wrong to pay people so little for the services that they offer," a community member of Deming said.

"With all do respect I am disgusted that any firefighter would quit because of money," another community member of Deming said. "Never leave your community unprotected." 

That is why some community members say the firefighters have stayed this long and why they agreed to a 9% increase, even though they believe they deserve more.

The City says there isn't enough money in the budget to provide more of a raise. They said in order for them to do that, they would have to take money away from other department or increase taxes. They said the wages they are offering are comparable to other towns with a similar population.

"I didn't pull these numbers out of the air we based them off of a pay plan study that we do every year," City Manager Aaron Sera said.

"The system is broken, if you go from state to state they're all paid less than what you'd expect," City Council member Victor Cruz said. "The argument shouldn't be are we gonna pay them or how much can we pay to make it as fair for the work they're doing as possible regardless of what Las Cruces or other people are paying."

During the meeting members of the public handed over a petition to remove the city manager for his handling of the fire departments wages. The petition was added to the record, but a representative for the city said it was not done in accordance with New Mexico state statutes. They were unable to tell the community how the petition did not comply.

The city manager said he has made a promise to the union that within the next four years they will find the funds to pay the department higher wages.

Back in January 14 firefighters of the 21 in the department, handed in their letters of resignation due to the low wages the city was paying them.

Then in February, four of those 14 officially walked away for good.

Article Topic Follows: New Mexico

Rachel Phillips

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