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Sunday, Feb. 17, 2002

By Staff
Meridian firefighters deserve to be a priority
To the editor:
As of late I have been reading letters to the editor that have been submitted by individuals that do not quite know or understand what has been taking place in regards to Meridian firefighters. I am and have been a firefighter with the City of Meridian for over four years.
I read a letter yesterday where an individual stated that we should stop whining about the chief's pay raise and that we knew what the pay would be when we started here. We are not upset at the fact that Chief Partridge got a raise; we are upset because we were lied to. We were told by the city administration that no city employee was going to receive a raise in September of last year. We griped about it, but we understood that the city was in a budget crunch so we accepted it. Then we find out two months ago that our chief received an $8,000 raise. It was a slap in the face. That was a signal to us that the administration did not consider us a priority.
The individual that wrote the letter in question said they realized that when they became a nurse they would not receive raises and that they were risking their life by dealing with patients with fatal communicable diseases. Firefighters are expected to respond to vehicle accidents, vehicle fires, house fires, Haz-Mat incidents, welfare checks, and medical calls. We are required to perform our duties in IDLH environments under extreme physical stress, and we do it willingly. Just in case anyone was wondering, IDLH means Immediate Danger to Life and Health. A firefighter's life can be ended at any instant 9/11 showed us that. How much is that worth?
Do Meridian firefighters not deserve to have a better working environment? Do we not deserve to be considered a priority by the city's administration?
Nurses make in the neighborhood of about $10,000 per year more than we do working half of the hours that we do. It is not fair to judge us by that standard. Firefighters are expected to place themselves in harm's way on a consistent basis. Yes, volunteers do it free, but the level of training required to be a certified volunteer is not anywhere near what is required for a professional. How much more schooling does a nurse have to go through compared to a nurse's aide? Volunteers do not have to place themselves in harm's way as often as Meridian firefighters are required to do, either.
This department is consistently losing well-trained firefighters to better paying jobs and better working conditions. Not only is it a monetary issue, it is a morale issue. Most of the individuals that have left MFD have left to do the same job elsewhere because $20,000 per year is not enough to raise a family in this day and time.
No matter how dedicated one is to the citizens of Meridian, reality sets in and it comes to dollars and cents. MFD's turnover rate is much higher now than it has been in previous years. My life is dependent on the individuals that I work with. How much more does an individual know that has been doing a job for six years than an individual that has only been doing it for 18 months?
Meridian firefighters are not disgruntled. We only want a better deal than we have received. Before making accusations and assertions about any group, understand what the individuals that are members of the group are dealing with on a daily basis.
Tunzyaan A. Griffin
Senior Firefighter
Meridian Fire Department
Stirring emotions
To the editor:
Being an English teacher, I think of a poem for nearly every situation. The recent controversy over John Walker Lindh brings to mind a poem by Sir Walter Scott titled "Breathes There The Man." I would like to quote a few applicable lines:
… The wretch, concentred all in self,
Living, shall forfeit fair renown
And, doubly dying, shall go down
To the the vile dust, from whence he sprung,
Unwept, unhonoured, and unsung.
Cathy Webb
Downtown garage needed more thought
To the editor:
I am a 66-year-old retired civil engineer. I have over 40 years experience in the engineering field, and therefore, have a small smattering of expertise in the field. The fact that I am a native Meridianite causes me to follow closely the proposed downtown parking garages. Based upon what I have seen in your newspaper, I have a few questions and concerns.
The location of the garage. If it is for downtown, why is it on the edge of the downtown business district? As has been stated, part of the funding will come from the new arts complex in the Grand Opera House building. All three proposals are two to three blocks from that facility. Each proposal shows an optional elevated walkway through the Trustmark property and through the Threefoot building. I submit, that will become a necessity, because what person, especially those of us who are older, would walk in that area of town at night when most of the activities at the arts complex will take place.
The new Cooper Development will bring an influx of senior citizens into the Meridian area. I truly believe the garage should be closer to the complex, say in the block due west of the old Kress building between Fifth and Sixth Streets on 23rd Avenue. This would reduce the distance by at least one-half. This might even encourage older people to utilize the facility more.
I wonder why it was necessary to go out of town to hire an architect. We have four or five competent architectural firms locally. One of our local architects was primary in the design of the only parking garage in town that actually works well, the Jeff Anderson Regional Medical Center garage. By seeking out of town consultants, the city guarantees to ship several thousands of taxpayer dollars away from Meridian. If the cost of the new garage is to be say $6 million, the architect fee will be between $150,000 and $300,000. That money could just as well have been spent at home.
I can think of many more questions and concerns that I have on this matter, most of them would be controversial. Having once been stung by the construction of the three white elephant garages currently located downtown, I would think that a little more thought would have gone into this new facility.
Richard A. Dixon, P.E.
An awesome resemblance'
To the editor:
My name is Cassandra Johnson and I live in Waynesboro. I read your paper daily. The reason I am writing is because of your Feb. 3 article in the "Connections" section of your paper ("Meridian Children's Chorus present Singing Valentine's").
I was overwhelmed at the resemblance of the child leading the chorus on the front page, Charles Williams, to that of my own son, Derrick Johnson.
I have received phone call after phone call in regard to the photo. I was even questioned by Derrick's grandmother, who thought she was not informed that her grandson was involved in such an extraordinary event.
I've heard of people having twins somewhere in life but this is truly amazing. My own son even wears glasses. My baby and his 5-year-old sister still think that Derrick is in the paper.
I was just so shocked, I had to drop these lines and this photo of my own child, so you yourself can see the awesome resemblance of these kids.
Cassandra Johnson