Abbott and Costello would feel at home in South Jordan.
Their "Who's on first" routine fits right in with the wacky episode being played out between the City Council and firefighters.Two years ago city officials made a mistake in calculating how to pay the fire department's six full-time firefighters. Most fire departments base an hourly pay rate on a 56-hour week. That should have been the way it was done in South Jordan.
Instead, it was based on a 40-hour work week. That resulted in roughly a 30 percent pay hike as firefighters were getting time-and-a-half for that additional 16 hours.
Firefighters brought the discrepancy to the attention of the City Council. They were basically told to stick to fighting fires and let the city worry about compensation.
That system, though wrong, was actually fair in that it raised the pay scale close to what other city fire departments give their employees. Earlier this year city officials realized what had been happening and decided to correct the error. The fact it took so long to recognize it doesn't speak highly of the city's financial acumen.
The accurate system is now in place, but depending on the firefighter, the difference means anywhere from $10,000 to $14,000 in lost income per year.
The City Council wisely is not asking for the firefighters to reimburse the city for the past overpayments. The six firefighters, who claim they only found out about the hefty revenue trim three days before the payday the change went into effect, are trying to cope with the sudden cut. They've formed a union but don't have much bargaining power.
Firefighters, the mayor and City Council need to work together to improve the situation. Reverting to the old wrong system is not the answer, nor is staying with the current one.
South Jordan's pay scale for firefighters ranges from $19,890 to $28,851 annually. That is woeful when compared with pay for others around the valley.
According to a survey conducted by South Jordan Fire Capt. Matt Evans, on average, firefighters locally earn between $27,900 and $39,353.
A 30 percent increase would boost South Jordan's pay scale near the average - between $25,857 and $37,506. Mayor Dix McMullen indicated the city plans to conduct a salary survey of its own and then consider making adjustments for all city employees.
It may not be possible due to budget constraints to boost the pay 30 percent, but it should be brought more into line with other comparable entities. As McMullen noted, "We're a small city. Paying a competitive wage is always going to be a challenge."
The city does, however, need to pay a livable wage to its fire-fighters. And that is more than it is paying now.