The Orem City Council took Tuesday night to look a bit closer at a variety of suggested plans to help raise the wages of police, fire and emergency dispatchers in the city.
After two hours of discussion, the council approved of a list of areas where money has been found to help with wages, including the second phase of a step-ladder program for officers to advance. This program is designed to help officers more easily progress to new promotions and ranks.
The threshold needed, according to Police Chief Gary Giles and Fire Chief Scott Gurney, was $345,000. In all, there was more than $800,000 on a list of revenue sources.
During the unofficial vote by the council, all but Tom Macdonald gave a yes approval for money to be used from the list of revenue sources. Macdonald said the city had found the money, he didn’t have to say yes or no, but left it to the two chiefs to work out the details, which is their responsibility.
Councilman Mark Seastrand said, “You’re the experts. We trust you to know what to do to be successful.”
All but four line items were approved to use as revenue sources.
The first two items would have affected firefighters’ overtime and public safety retirement plans. The third item was money from Utah Infrastructure Agency dividends. The final was from wages from all city departments.
For weeks, residents, former officers and firefighters, family members and friends all clamored at the council chambers to make the point that police are leaving because nothing is keeping them in Orem, neither wages or working conditions.
About 50 people were in attendance at the council meeting. Only one, Kevin Wilkey, a former firefighter who served in Orem for 11 years and recently left city employment, was allowed to speak at the mic, but not while in uniform.
Wilkey has been one of the steady and passionate defenders of the need to keep veteran officers and take care of what the city has. He is also concerned about the morale of the two departments.
Wilkey thanked who he said were the only two who reached out to him after years of service: Mayor Richard Brunst and Councilman David Spencer.
“It was an honor working as a firefighter/paramedic,” Wilkey said. “I have been spat on, punched and vomited on, but nothing hurt more than being told I could not wear my uniform to a city council meeting.”
Wilkey’s passion was shared by the audience, which included firefighters and police officers. After his speech, Brunst stood and applauded him, the rest of the room followed with a standing ovation.
However, it was apparent Wilkey had more to say on the morale issues before ending, but Brunst asked him to not discuss individuals or go off topic. Wilkey obeyed.
It is now up the two chiefs to work with Jamie Davidson, city manager to see how they will adjust the wage scale and used to new found money.
“Use this budget. Fund the step-ladder program immediately,” Brunst said.