Billboards call for fair pay to firefighters in Port City - WECT TV6-WECT.com:News, weather & sports Wilmington, NC

Billboards call for fair pay to firefighters in Port City

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One of three messages that scrolls through an electronic billboard on Oleander Drive. One of three messages that scrolls through an electronic billboard on Oleander Drive.

WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) – Some firefighters in the Port City want you to take notice of their messages around Wilmington.

A billboard near the intersection of Oleander Drive and 41st Street is the first location for three recently purchased posts by the firefighters of WPFFA Local 129. President Chuck Bower said Monday that the men and woman who fight fires for a living are running out of time to make an impact on the 2013-2014 budget process.

"Right now our cost of living is rising faster than our rate of pay," he said.

The union leader said a 2% across-the-board pay increase last year was appreciated, but Bower said he would prefer a long-term, comprehensive plan to put firefighters pay equal to Wilmington Police. In a letter to city leaders, Bower claimed the difference between the two departments jumped from $600 to $6,000 in the last 10 years.

City leaders will hold a work session about the city's general compensation plan after their March 18 agenda brief. Bower said he's not going to settle for the staff recommendation, because he wants the citizens of Wilmington to urge city council members into adding a substantial amount of compensation this budget year.

"As an organization, we're uncomfortable with the recommendations made by the manager," Bower said. "They don't seem to really hold any fruit or any hope."

The electronic billboard cycles through a number of ads, including three messages from the local firefighters union. Bower said they'll move to a location on South College after two weeks, followed by a sign on Market Street for a final two weeks. Each message lasts about eight seconds before switching to another advertisement.

"You can't say everything you want to say," said Bower.

Though they don't mention Wilmington Fire Department by name, the messages show the union's web address.

City councilman Charlie Rivenbark returned a call for comment Monday night. He said he understands the hard work that these first responders perform, but he's not going to give preferential treatment to any specific department.

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