The city has reached a new salary pact with its firefighters and paramedics aimed at halting defection of the public safety workers to higher paying jobs elsewhere.

"We came in with a wheelbarrow of problems and we emptied the wheelbarrow. Now we have just a bucket full," said Val Heiner, president of the local firefighter union.A study of the Ogden Fire Department showed Ogden firefighters averaged 10 percent less pay than other Wasatch Front counterparts.

At a meeting last month, City Council members unanimously agreed to raise salaries by 7.5 percent over a two-year period, increasing the city's share of retirement benefits by 4.2 percent.

The average firefighter's annual salary is now $29,210.

The increase will start July 11 with a 2 percent raise and a 1 percent hike in the city's share in retirement benefits. That will be bumped again on Jan. 9, 1999, when firefighters get an additional 2 percent salary increase plus another 1 percent increase in retirement.

In July 1999, firefighters will get another 1.5 percent salary increase with a 1 percent increase in retirement. That will be followed by a 2 percent increase in January 2000 and an additional 1.2 percent increase in retirement benefits.