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Midway FD: POA council backs pay raise for firefighters

By Charles Swenson
Coastal Observer

A group that represents area homeowners has endorsed a call by Midway Fire and Rescue to raise pay for firefighters and emergency medical workers. The Waccamaw Neck Council of Property Owners Associations says turnover at the fire department is a threat to safety and insurance rates.

Midway is a special tax district within Georgetown County. It currently has a 10-mill property tax rate that funds operations.

But Midway says its pay lags behind other departments in the region. Turnover last year was 25 percent, according to Tom Koltak, who chairs the Midway board. The department wants to increase pay by 5 percent to restore cuts approved by Georgetown County in 2009 and become competitive with nearby agencies.

The property owners council met last week with Fire Chief Doug Eggiman, board member Joe Gabriel and County Council Member Jerry Oakley.

“We explained what we were doing and what we were asking for,” Gabriel said. “It’s not always easy to ask in the times we’re in.”

The board estimates an increase to 12 mills would fund the raises. The difference is $2 for every $1,000 of assessed property value.

In a letter to County Council this week, the POA council president, Tom Stickler, wrote the increase “will preserve the integrity and efficiency of the department.”

Property values have gone down in the Midway tax district, but costs have not. “Normally, they adjust the millage rate,” Stickler said in an interview. “You leave it up to their discretion as to how much it would be.”

Midway says that it needs to raise pay by $5,000 for its firefighters and emergency medical workers.

“We wanted to get a better feeling of what kind of budgetary matters they were dealing with,” Stickler said.

The association board members came away convinced.

“We believe the department has done all it can to contain costs,” the letter to council states.

The council last month received a petition with over 100 signatures asking for a pay increase for Midway. The council faces a dilemma because firefighters in the rural district and deputies also want raises.

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