Horry County fire wife, FOP president oppose proposal to cut employee benefits

Horry County fire wife, FOP president oppose proposal to cut employee benefits

HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - Public input ended after two people voiced concerns with a proposal to cut Horry County employee benefits.

Seats inside council chambers were full as many attended the discussion of employee benefits.

Chuck Canterbury, national president fraternal of police, shared statistics and claimed the Horry County Police Department no longer requires higher education as a mandate for employment because applicant pools are becoming smaller and smaller.

"If you are going to cut their benefits and you're not going to compensate them, they've had 4 percent raises in seven years, but they had a huge increase in their pension contribution which they're not complaining about, but they've also had huge increases in their family medical health and now they're talking about cutting those benefits and cutting their time off and their time off is commensurate with every other agency in the state of South Carolina," Canterbury said.

Canterbury also claimed crime is ranked high in Horry County. "The safety of the citizens is your first task," he said to county council members.

Canterbury asked for “fair, livable wages, so [Horry County employees] will stay here.”

"Well it is a slap in the face, it's absolutely a slap in the face for the employees and the county to be told and perform at your best, put your life on the line for the citizens, but how dare you stand up before council and ask to be provided a livable wage we're paying you just go do your job," Canterbury added.

An Horry County fire wife took the podium next.

Heather Turner addressed paid time-off, or PTO, and said firefighters use that time to complete work-related tasks.

Regarding the small team of three firefighters who traveled to other states to fight fire, Turner said the team used PTO.

Turner claimed Horry County Fire Rescue is unable to retain its employee and said she believes it's due to the lack of employee benefits.

She mentioned her and her firefighter husband recently had a child. She said cutting benefits not only hurt the employees but also the families.

"I support everything that he does and I am proud of him but I also feel that he needs to be respected," Turner said. "So many of our firemen and our police officers put so much on the line every single day and we need to appreciate them and show them that we appreciate them through compensation."

Turner compared Horry County to other counties in South Carolina and said the county is behind when it comes to paid time-off for firefighters.

"Over the past several years so much has been taken away from our firefighters and our police officers they're pay was cut a few years ago they lost some of their retirement insurance and its kind of been enough is enough," Turner added.

Horry County Council Chairman Mark Lazarus addressed firefighters' concerns, saying: "I don't disagree we need to figure out a way pay our employees more we need to have better benefits employees, and take care of the ones that out there truly working hard and are meaningful employees to this county. We respect them we appreciate them we have to move through it and we have to balance the budget and no body wants raise millage or raise taxes but we're going to look at all aspects."

Lazarus went on to explain: "We could have voted to two weeks ago, three weeks ago, to implement something very quickly, but we decided not to do that because we know how serious this is and we want to making the right decisions and that we're doing right way. So I think we are proving ourselves from a council standpoint that we're looking at this hard we're taking to consideration of the employees in and we're going to come back with some ordinances and good policies as we move forward."

Copyright 2015 WMBF News. All rights reserved.