Reserve firefighters get first pay raise since 2000

By Tony Wittkowski | Business Reporter | The Herald-Palladium

BENTON TOWNSHIP — Benton Township’s reserve firefighters will get their first raises in 16 years after Benton Township Board action Tuesday.

Reserve firefighters pay will rise from $12 an hour to $15.

Fire Chief Dan Durham wrote to trustees, saying the reserves are typically called only during extreme operations when resources and manpower are all going to a scene.

“They are called away from jobs that are paying them a higher wage than we are providing, from their families and friends during the weekends or from their sleep in the middle of winter …,” Durham wrote.

The township has eight reserve firefighters, but employed as many as 10 in 2015.

The increase puts the township’s reserve unit at the average salary in Berrien County.

Before the raise, the township’s reserve firefighters had the third lowest salary in the county.

Replacing two millages

The police and fire operating millage, which are each 3 mills, expired in 2015.

Trustees approved a resolution to place a replacement levy of 6 mills for police and fire on the Aug. 2 ballot.

The millage would last 10 years through 2025.

Superintendent Elden Piontek said there is no increase in how much the township is seeking from taxpayers.

“We are not asking for an increase,” he said. “It’s not a renewal, but a replacement millage. We are combining two tax levies at 3 mills to one that is 6 mills. It’s simpler for people to just vote one time.”

The previous two millage levies were renewed in 2010 for five years.

It is now being put up to a vote for 10 years.

Piontek told trustees the millage would raise about $2.4 million in its first year.

Taxpayers would pay $6 per $1,000 of taxable value.

Other agenda items

Trustees had their second reading of an ordinance to license and establish standards and regulations for halfway houses Tuesday.

The board adopted the ordinance unanimously.

Benton Township does not have any halfway houses or requests for one, but Superintendent Elden Piontek said this ordinance was proposed for the “safety and welfare of residents.”

Halfway houses are places where people in recovery from alcohol or drugs can live through the state’s Department of Corrections.

The next regular meeting will be at 5:30 p.m. on April 5 at the township’s municipal building.

Contact Tony Wittkowski at twittkowski@TheHP.com or (269) 932-0358. Follow him on Twitter: @tonywittkowski.

(Author’s Note: This article was originally published on March 16, 2016)

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