Staff photo by Cole Dittmer
Protestors filled City Hall on Tuesday, April 1, during the Wilmington City Council meeting with posters calling for fair pay for the Wilmington police and fire departments.
A large crowd of protestors filled Wilmington City Hall Council Chambers during Wilmington City Council’s Tuesday, April 1 meeting, asking for fair pay for the city’s police and fire department employees.
Signs with messages like “Fair pay and we will stay,” and “Fair pay for keeping Wilmington safe,” were prominent in the crowd, which was organized via social media by the Facebook group Police Officers for a Safer Wilmington.
Tom Tilmon, a representative from the group, spoke during the public information segment of city council’s meeting in support of Wilmington Police Chief Ralph Evangelous’ efforts to repair the pay scale and against city council’s November 2013 decision to decrease the amount of worker’s compensation payout. Tilmon said the failure to repair the system caused enormous apathy and unsustainable attrition in our agency.
“The citizens expect an educated, trained, diverse and professional workforce,” Tilmon said. “Chief Evangelous has strived to realize that goal throughout his entire tenure but in order for him to achieve that Wilmington must remain competitive … at all levels of pay.”
Tilmon declined to answer whether or not he is an employee of the Wilmington Police Department or Wilmington Fire Department after his speech but said Police Officers for a Safer Wilmington began after the vote to decrease employee compensation payout.
“We were losing so many employees, and we felt like we needed to do something,” he said.
No member of city council addressed Tilmon’s speech immediately after he concluded, but the issue resurfaced after the end of council’s regular agenda.
In reference to the decision to lower the amount of employee compensation paid, Councilman Charlie Rivenbark said he was led to believe the change was required by state statute.
City attorney Bill Wolack said the change was not mandatory and the city had been paying more employee compensation than required. The change was an effort to bring the city’s employee compensation payout down to the level required by state statute.
Mayor Pro Tem Margaret Haynes said she was also under the impression the change was required.
Carolina Beach Inlet
During city council’s regular agenda, emergency funding for dredging Carolina Beach Inlet was unanimously approved.
The emergency funding was required because of the inlet’s scheduled fourth quarter dredge project for fiscal year 2013-14 budget shortfall. Wilmington was asked to contribute 2.6 percent, or $6,800, of the entire project’s cost.
Half of the project is funded by the state of North Carolina and the other half is split between Wilmington and New Hanover County at $78,312; Carolina Beach at $13,759; and Wrightsville and Kure beaches at $2,275 each.
Like a majority of councilmembers, Councilman Kevin O’Grady said he would approve funding for the sake of being a good neighbor but suggested residents living in the county’s unincorporated areas were getting a better deal than those who have to pay taxes both to the county and their respective municipality.