Council Discusses Police/Firefighter Pay, Urban Blight

Meridian, Miss. Higher pay. That's what the heads of both the Meridian Police Department and Fire Department told council members they need for their employees.

"We have lieutenants who are making less than the people that they supervise, and that's not right," says Meridian Police Chief Benny Dubose.

Currently, the fire department has 15 spots to fill. Chief Anthony Clayton says he's grateful for the recent increase to just over $26,000 salary for starting firefighters. But Clayton says after they're trained, firefighters are being lost to other local departments that pay more, such as NAS Meridian, National Guard base and even the Philadelphia Fire Department.

"We're spending $600,000 on a fire truck, but we're getting a guy whose got two years to drive it," says Clayton. "Something there ain't right!"

City council members will officially start budget talks within the next month. As for the new budget year, it will officially start Oct. 1.

Meanwhile, also discussed during the work session Tuesday was a plan to help better maintain the condition of the community.

The Community Development Department is looking at handing out tickets to people who violate the city's urban blight ordinances for things such as abandoned property, or overgrown lots. To hand out those tickets they're looking at using sworn police officers.

"The preponderance of the people that we're going to be talking with have already been in conversations, been warned, or will be warned and notified," says Community Development Director, John McClure.

At this time specifics about the ticketing program, including the fees are being worked out with city court officials. McClure says his plan is for the ticketing program to take effect by September.