Park City firefighters paid $50K
Many rank-and-file firefighters in Park City whose average annual salaries exceed $50,000 claim they can’t afford to live in the tony ski town.
"Prices, of course, for homes have soared in the Park City area over the past many years and on a firefighter’s salary it’s hard for many of us to afford nice homes in the Park City area," Park City Fire Capt. Jason Stucki said.
His paycheck, however, won’t stop him from commuting 35 minutes to the mountains from Salt Lake City to fight fires, Stucki stressed.
"You can definitely make more money at most other professions, but I think most of us do it for other reasons than for the money," he said. "I’ve been doing this for 14 years now and I could not love this job more than I do."
The average annual salary for a fire captain in Park City is $68,875.
"We all enjoy doing the job so much that [pay] is not something we gripe about," Stucki said.
By comparison, firefighters and paramedics in Salt Lake City earn average salaries of $49,275 while their counterparts at Unified Fire Authority in Salt Lake County are paid $46,500, according to human resources officials at the departments.
Rank-and-file firefighters in ski towns like Jackson, Wyo. and Aspen, Colo. are volunteers.
"Compensation is the key," longtime Park City Fire Chief Kelly Gee said. "It’s working conditions, compensation, safety, the equipment that we have, the new facilities, everything rolled into one ball makes up their total compensation package."
Every two years salaries for firefighters in Park City are renegotiated after a compensation committee comprised of district employees examines pay at similarly sized departments, Park City Fire District spokeswoman Tricia Hurd explained.
"I think our chief is actually one of the lowest paid in the state," she said.
This year Gee will receive a salary of $105,900. The fire chief in Salt Lake City earns $108,596 while the Unified Fire Authority chief in Salt Lake County is paid $127,337.
"Our primary competition comes from the Salt Lake valley," Gee said. "We need to make sure that we are close, if not head to head, with the Salt Lake valley fire departments."
Meanwhile, fire district officials recently hired a chief financial officer whose average annual salary is $93,444. Assistant fire chiefs in Park City could earn $106,352 per year while the average annual salary for a community relations officer like Hurd is $62,199.
The average pay for Summit County Sheriff’s Office deputies and officers at the Park City Police Department is lower than the average salary for a Park City firefighter, which is $50,124.
"We do have good pay," Hurd said. "I don’t necessarily think that it’s a priority among firefighters, because it certainly is not a career where people are going to get rich by any means. Certainly people don’t want to live in poverty either."
To help offset the high costs of housing in western Summit County, firefighters can receive a $3,000-per-year housing allowance to live in Park City or the Snyderville Basin.
"If they haven’t had a home here say for 10 of 15 years there isn’t a chance," Gee said. "That’s just a reality."
The housing allowance doesn’t entice many firefighters to move to Park City, Hurd admits.
"Many of our firefighters have families and they may have purchased their first homes in the (Salt Lake) valley and the cost of a home in the valley is significantly less than up here," Hurd said. "To sell one down there and move up here is virtually impossible for most."
Still, employee morale at the Park City Fire District is "extremely high," Stucki insists.
"A lot of that is of course from our chief," said Stucki, who praised Gee.
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Several people approached Mayor Andy Beerman and the Park City Council this week pressing issues important to senior citizens. The issues include the availability of housing for people who want to age in the community.