Clovis Fire Department battles employee retention

By Sharna Johnson: CNJ Staff Writer

City officials are evaluating an employee compensation plan proposed by the Clovis Fire Department in response to retention problems, according to Clovis City Manager Joe Thomas.

On the cusp of receiving his paramedic’s registration — a three-year investment — firefighter Joel Gershon will receive a raise of 75 cents added to the $11 an hour he now makes. He has been on the job more than four years.

“I’m not angry or frustrated, I’m just disappointed (the city) doesn’t put enough weight into their emergency services,” he said.

Hourly wages for the same qualification level start around $12 and range to $18 an hour in the Lubbock and Amarillo areas, he said.

Gershon said he wants to stay in Clovis.

“I made a commitment to the department, and I believe in honoring my commitment,” he said. “I believe that it is a good department with lots of great potential.

“It (would just be) nice to support my wife and three children. None of us are asking to get rich off this job; we’re just asking to live comfortably.”

Retention issues have been ongoing for some time, Clovis Fire Chief Ray Westerman said.

“We’re losing those people at a rate faster than we are replacing them.”

His compensation plan, if adopted, will revamp the current pay plan and targets mid- to upper-level employees, he said.

“We need to make it to where it’s financially beneficial for our employees to continue working for this organization over a long period of time,” he said.

Westerman said he anticipates a single-digit percentage increase in his overall salary budget. Individual pay increases will vary based on multiple factors, including tenure and grade, he said.

Thomas said municipalities always struggle with budget constraints when trying to balance funds with a need to retain qualified and skilled employees.

City officials are working with the fire department to come up with firm numbers so the matter can be considered with the new budget in spring, he said.

By the numbers

3.5 — Average experience level in years of Clovis firefighters.

77 — Full-time employees at the Clovis Fire Department.

$12.27 — Average hourly wage of Clovis firefighters, making the average annual salary $25,500.

$3,210,954 — Annual salary and wages budget for the Clovis Fire Department.