The fire rating in the City of Hattiesburg is currently a level 4, but there are some improvements and changes that will need to be made to secure that rating, according to city officials.
“Keeping our fire rating is one of the most important things we can do for our residents,” said Hattiesburg Mayor Toby Barker. “For the average resident, your home insurance premiums are dictated by what your fire rating is for your community.”
The city currently has a level 4 rating, which is a positive note for homeowners.
“We’re a level 4 right now and that’s good, but even when they last evaluated us, they pointed out some things that we have still not addressed, things involving equipment, things involving an additional fire station,” Barker said.
With some of those needs, Barker said the upcoming budget proposals are not only important, but necessary for the city.
“Now we’re about to be evaluated again," Barker said. "If we don’t make some investments, in the trucks, in the basic equipment, and we really have to start looking at another fire station, holding on to that level 4, sort of looks challenging right now."
Another thing Barker said can help, will be adding manpower to the department. He said another Hattiesburg Fire Academy could be starting soon.
“So if we can bring them up here, we’re more likely to actually retain them, if we can keep our wages competitive, if we can make basic investments in equipment, stations and trucks,” said Barker.
Barker said he is aware of the issue regarding competitive pay, and that it’s something that is being discussed on ongoing talks.
“For us, Hattiesburg, doesn’t just compete with the Gulfports and the Biloxis and Jacksons, we also compete with Petal and other towns in the surrounding area, and so we have to make sure that we are paying our folks a competitive wage that lets them see not only how they can make it this year, but how they can see a path for themselves to stay in Hattiesburg over a longer period of time,” Barker said. “Pay for any city employee is important, and we have to evaluate each department based on what our surrounding communities are paying that same department.”
“Everything we do, we have the talent to be the best, and so when we think about the future, we can’t just sit back and say how do we just maintain," Barker said. "No, the challenge for us is how do we go forward and prepare ourselves for capacity and development not only this year, but five, 10, 15 years down the road, that’s the kind of fire department, that’s the kind of capacity we need to be building."
More items concerning the fire department and budget proposals will be discussed in the Aug. 22nd city council meeting.