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W.Va. council approves $2K raise for firefighters

Beckley councilmembers unanimously approved raises for firefighters


A Beckley Fire Department fire truck.

City of Beckley Fire Department/Facebook

By Josephine Moore
The Register-Herald

BECKLEY, W.Va. — Beckley firefighters will receive a $2,000 raise, making it the third city department to receive a raise in the past year. The Beckley Common Council approved the decision at its meeting on March 12.

Beckley Fire Chief Joe Coughlin said the raise will bring the estimated first-year salary range for new recruits to $44,000-$47,000. Council approved $8,000 raises for the police department in August, followed by a $2 hourly increase for Beckley’s Public Works employees in September.

Beckley budget concerns

While council voted unanimously in favor of the fire department raises, Beckley Council member Robert Dunlap questioned whether the city could afford the raises given the anticipated upcoming expenses of finding and paying for a city manager.

Dunlap also stated that he brought up similar concerns in an email exchange about the raises that Beckley Mayor Rob Rappold started days before the council meeting.

Included in the email chain exchange dated March 6, which The Register-Herald acquired, were all seven of the Beckley Council members, City Attorney Bill File and Beckley Recorder/Treasurer Billie Trump.

In addressing Dunlap’s concerns at the council meeting, Trump said that given the anticipated retirements, the fire department will be able to absorb the raises with its existing budget.

Trump said several of the retiring firefighters have over 30 years of experience and have “significant salaries.”

“As they leave, they’ll be replaced by entry-level people,” he said. "... We’re going to have some significant savings in the line item that goes with salaries for the fire department. We’ll be easily able to absorb the fire department raise without really actually raising the line item very much from what it was last year.”

The 2023-24 fiscal year budget, which runs from July 1, 2023, to June 30, 2024, for the Beckley Fire Department, as shown on the West Virginia State Auditor’s Office website, is about $6.34 million.

In Beckley’s 2024-25 fiscal year budget, which council also approved at its meeting, the fire department budget was increased to roughly $6.86 million.

Trump said he also made allowances within the coming fiscal year’s budget to account for the expected salary of a city manager, which some have estimated could be around $100,000.

He said the line item for contingencies in the ’24-25 budget, which has $160,866, has enough funds to handle the anticipated city manager salary.

Trump said any necessary budget revision will be made in July per state requirements.

City revenues are projected to stay roughly the same in the coming fiscal year at about $29.7 million.

Trump said the city is expected to receive more in revenue for the current fiscal year, ’23-24, than anticipated.

Beckley Fire Department recruiting

Raises for the fire department occurred while the Beckley Fire Department is actively recruiting.

Coughlin said the department is preparing to replace at least six firefighters scheduled to retire within the next year.

For interested candidates who want to learn more about the position, the fire department will host an open house from 5-8 p.m. on Friday at Beckley Fire Department Station 3, at 232 Industrial Drive, Beckley.

During the open house, Coughlin said they’ll go over the training involved in becoming a firefighter, education requirements, what people can expect from the job if they join the department and answer any questions.

Applications are available Monday through Friday at the Beckley Fire Department at 310 Third St. in Beckley from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and at Beckley City Hall at 409 S. Kanawha St. in Beckley from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Applications are due back to Beckley City Hall by 4:30 p.m. Friday, March 29.

Applicants will then take a written exam administered by the Beckley Fire Department’s Civil Service Commission at 9 a.m. Saturday, April 13, at the Beckley-Raleigh County Convention Center.

Coughlin said the test scores will determine whom the department hires.

He added that veterans are given additional points on the exam but need to provide a copy of their DD-214 with the application.

Coughlin, who has more than 30 years of experience with the Beckley Fire Department, said it takes a certain level of dedication to be a firefighter.

“You have to be an honest person and you have to be a compassionate person,” he said. “Most of the people that you deal with in the public, they’re having the worst day ever and your job is to make their day better. There’s tragedy involved, you’re exposed to things that the public is only exposed to on the evening news ... so you have to be pretty strong — physically fit and mentally fit.”

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