The Fire Chief Project: One community learns that you get what you pay for

An Alabama town gives its water plant operators a sharp boost in pay in hopes of attracting talent.

Municipal and utility budgets are often thin these days, and that can make it hard to pay well enough to attract and keep top-quality employees.

In that context, the Times Daily newspaper in Florence, Alabama, reports the Town of Cherokee council recently approved a pay increase for water treatment plant operators from $18 an hour to $28 an hour in hopes of attracting a well-qualified employee to add to the plant staff.

"Currently, the plant is operating with one full-time operator and a part-time operator,” the news story said. “The Alabama Department of Environmental Management recently noted that the town’s water treatment plant was understaffed. [Mayor Terry] Cosby said the additional full-time employee would correct that, and the part-time employee would stay on as well.”

Cosby told the newspaper, “We knew we had to be competitive with our rate of pay, so this raise will help. The average rate is $30 per hour. We’ve set ours at $28 with the option of raising it to $30 as we can.”

Paying competitive wages helps recognize the value of water and wastewater operators and helps further the aims of The Fire Chief Project:

  • Raise operators to the status of the fire chief.
  • Make kids grow up wanting to be operators.


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