Mission firefighters get wage increase

During this week’s meeting, the Mission city council voted to give the fire department raises.

This comes after several meetings and workshops going back and forth on the issue, with the general consensus being that the firefighters deserve a raise, but the city was unsure of where the funding to cover those wages would come from.

City of Mission logoAfter discovering an extra $260,000 in the hotel/motel tax fund that went unused in the construction of the Mission Event Center, mayor and council decided to use that money for wage increases in the fire department.

They recently held a collaborative meeting where they looked over four potential plans for how the money would be distributed among raises, Emergency Technician Training and education and longevity pay.

During that meeting, it was decided that a plan presented by Fire Chief Gilbert Sanchez would be presented to council.

After council reviewed the plan, council member Ruben Plata brought up a fifth option that included a three percent raise for 21 firefighters, closing the gap and including the two civilian employees (the chief and assistant chief), benefits, as well as EMT training pay incentives – with the discussion on education and longevity parity to be discussed at a later date.

The new firefighters brought into the department as a result of the recent SAFER (Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response) grant that Mission was awarded are not included in the wage increases, as they were hired after Oct. 1, the beginning of the fiscal year.

The wage increases and pay changes will go into effect for the department starting Monday, Dec. 3.

City council also approved authorization for the fire department to purchase bunker gear and personal protective equipment from North America Fire Equipment Company, Inc. (NAFECO). The equipment includes 31 sets of firefighter bunker gear, which are being bought to replace sets that have reached the mandatory ten year retirement program.

The city will spend $82,132 on this purchase.

The fire department also received approval to apply for the Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation Grant, which will include five automated external defibrillators (AEDs) that would cost $6,525 for the suppression division. The prevention division will apply for a fire extinguisher digital simulator in the amount of $12,327.

During the meeting, the city of Mission entered into an interlocal agreement with the city of Palmhurst to provide temporary housing for prisoners.

Police Chief Robert Dominguez presented the item, which specifies that the agreement is for temporary housing and detention of prisoners awaiting arraignment subject to the availability of space in the Mission facility.

Housing will cost $54 per prisoner per day, and includes transportation, detention and meal costs.

The interlocal agreement commenced Oct. 1 and will end at midnight on Sept. 30, 2019.

The Mission Police Department was also authorized to purchase one FLIR SkyWatch frontier tower system through a sole source vendor. The tower will cost $154,413 – $150,000 will come from the 2017 Operation Stonegarden program grant, and the police department will cover the remaining $4,413.

In addition, $34,991 from the Mission Municipal Court Technology Fund will be used to buy 15 ticket writers from Tyler Technologies for patrol officers to issue electronic citations.

The Office of the Governor awarded Mission PD the 2018 Homeland Security Grant, and $37,261.49 will go toward the purchase of SWAT equipment. SWAT equipment includes 13 OMNI VIII night vision monocular sights and 13 helmet mounts, to be used during night time operations.

The total cost for SWAT equipment is $39,445.64. Mission PD will take care of the difference of $2,184.15 through the State Drug Forfeiture account.

Item 3.9 on the agenda was the authorization to award a contract for ambulance services for the city of Mission. Council member Plata called for the item to be moved to executive session because he had some legal questions about the matter.

The city received three proposals, but one provider was found unresponsive. An evaluation committee including Dominguez, Sanchez and Emergency Management Coordinator James Cardoza reviewed the proposals, which were submitted under a set criteria outlined in the request for proposal.

The recommendation from the Ambulance Board was to award services to Hidalgo County EMS. After executive session, the council returned and unanimously voted to deny that recommendation and award the contract to Med-Care EMS.

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