The Mexico Beach Volunteer Firefighters are in the market for some updated gear. They asked the City Council to cancel their compensation pay and use the funds to purchase new equipment.
Last week, the Council had a first reading of ordinance 600. It would amend a current ordinance and remove wages and compensation for the fire division, something all firefighters agreed would be a good move for the department. Kevin Martin, Mexico Beach Fire Chief explain, "We respond to the same calls and under the same burdens that all paid departments are."
Small towns mean small budgets, but that doesn't mean the fires or emergencies are any smaller. "You can't fight a fire if you don't got the gear," said Martin.
The dozen or so Mexico Beach Volunteer Firefighters respond to just a few calls each month, but they need the same gear as paid departments and it isn't cheap. "This is called a bunker coat; it's about $800 bucks," Martin said. Then there's the pants, helmet, and don't forget the boots. "They're around $125 a set," said Martin.
The whole outfit comes to a total of more $2,000. Like most things, it wears out. Martin said, "You see threads coming off in different places."
While the bunker gear is all in regulation, the department needs some upgrades, especially when it comes to safety. So much, the group is willing to give up their pay. Martin said, "We'd rather take that money and instead of getting paid, buy equipment with it."
The City currently budgets $7,500 for compensation and pays the firefighters $25 per call. "We've asked the city council to reallocate the budget for that pay into a line item to purchase equipment and protective gear," Martin said.
The department would then be able to buy bigger and better gear with that money. The City Council members are expected to vote on the decision to reallocate the funds at their next regular meeting.