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Posted on: January 25, 2017

Fire Chief Aspires to Improve City Fire Rating

Marcus Banks does a great job as Greenwood’s fire chief. In his seven years at the helm, he has continued — and, if anything, raised — the competence and responsiveness in his 54?firefighter department.

Banks is driven toward improvement in himself, steadily furthering his education, including having achieved a master’s degree. It’s natural — and commendable — that he wants to do the same in his department.

His goal, he told the Greenwood Rotary Club this week, is to lower the city’s already good fire?-protection rating of Class 4 to an even better Class 3. If the city were to achieve that, it would join only four other cities in the state with that low of a rating.

When all of the city’s priorities, however, are considered, including within the Fire Department itself, Class 4 may have to be good enough for a while.

For one, it would be expensive to try to attain a Class 3 rating. According to Banks, it would take one more fire truck — about a $600,000 expense — and six more firefighters, which would add an extra $200,000 annually to the budget. In addition, Mayor Carolyn McAdams says she wonders whether the existing four fire stations could accommodate more personnel. If adding firefighters required building and operating a fifth fire station, that would be a significant additional expense.

The main reason to spend that kind of money would be if a Class 3 rating translated into significantly lower insurance premiums for property owners. Some in the insurance industry have indicated the savings would be modest at best.

Thus, given the city’s limited resources and talk that it might be looking at raising tax rates later this year, this is a time to prioritize. There are a lot of streets in this city that need repaving. The Police Department has too many vacancies. And even within the Fire Department, salaries have been too low.

The city has begun to address the latter, approving just recently a dollar-?an-?hour increase for both firefighters and police officers. It may need to do even better than that to recruit and keep those men and women who are critical to the safety and security of this community.

We’re glad Banks aspires high, but for now, it seems the better course is to improve the compensation of the people who work for him rather than to increase their number.
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