MOBILE, Ala. (WALA) - The dedication of the new Edward A. Berger Fire Station will bring added protection for people in Mobile's annexed portion of Theodore. The 9,000 sq. ft. fire station features a classroom, workout room and a climate-controlled hose drying area.
It's designed to improve the work environment for firefighters but this good news comes on the heels of what many city workers consider a major setback.
On Thursday, FOX10 told you about Mayor Sam Jones' proposal to increase city workers insurance contribution from 18 to 22 percent. Jones said sky-rocketing insurance premiums have left the city with a $16 million deficit.
"We have to find some way to resolve that as we go forward. If we don't then we actually jeopardize the entire program," he said.
The proposed increase will be on Tuesday's city council agenda, and it has some city workers outraged.
Police officer John Young said he has had enough. Young said it's been six years since city workers have received a raise.
To him, an increase in employee insurance contributions is just another unwelcome blow.
"Why would they continue to choose the city employees to take from and not give?" Young asked.
Jones said the city's options are limited. An advisory committee organized by the city council recommended a similar, albeit steeper increase. The mayor said his proposal is less drastic.
"The advisory committee made a recommendation that we opposed as the administration. We think that recommendation is really too drastic. So what we've actually proposed is stepping the increases in, not in one lump sum," Jones said.
The proposal will have be be approved by the city council.
Council members Gina Gregory and Bess Rich did not say how they would vote on the mayor's proposal, but they both indicated some change is insurance contribution is possible.
"It's not in stone yet, but we know we have to look at the insurance benefits that our employees get. And of course, with some of their salaries being among the lowest, especially for public safety in general you want to be really careful that you don't lose people, good people, because they don't have the right benefits. But it's something that has to be looked at and especially for new employees, particularly," Rich said.
Gregory said the council understands the fact that contributing more to health care is "basically... a cut in pay."
"We understand that. I've understood it from the get go, but I also know that I didn't propose it, but now I have to look at it a decide if it's something we need to happen or not." Gregory said.
In the meantime, the clock is ticking . The city council must recommend a new budget for the upcoming fiscal year by Tuesday, Oct. 2. If they do not, the budget will simply roll back to the previous year's.
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