The largest public paycheques in the District of Sooke went to employees, who receive, in some cases, more than 15 per cent their annual wages in overtime.
Four career firefighters were the District of Sooke’s highest paid employees in 2017, according to salary information obtained through a public records request by the Sooke News Mirror.
Cam Norris-Jones, fire captain, is the highest paid district employee.
Norris-Jones made $177,193.23. His take home pay included a base salary of $100,842.50 and $25,952.00 in overtime. He also received other pay incentives.
While not the highest paid, Chris McCrea, also a fire captain, earned the highest overtime pay of any firefighter, and likely any district employee last year.
Public records show McCrea was paid a base pay of $100,616.88 and $27,398.26 in overtime. He also received other pay incentives.
Fire Chief Kenn Mount, named several factors driving all that overtime: Sooke’s growth spurt, the retirement of the former fire chief and deputy chief, and increasing demands for service and expectations from the public.
“We’re at a stage where Sooke is growing and the fire department is under some pressure,” he said. “We’re a very busy department for the size of the community.”
Last year, the district hired two career firefighters to alleviate the workload, and city council has requested a long-term staffing plan report from the fire department.
Mount, who became Sooke’s fire chief 1½ years ago, said when he first arrived he noted the three full-time members were doing the work of six, with a volunteer force of about 30 members.
He added the focus now is to reduce the excessive overtime and ensure firefighters are taking time off and vacation time.
Mayor Maja Tait is concerned with the amount of overtime firefighters accrued last year, but more importantly, she said, she doesn’t want to see fatigue or burnout with career firefighters.
“It’s not sustainable to have our firefighters working day in and day out, and, yes, they are getting paid out some of their vacation time but you need a break to rest and recharge.”
Along with Norris-Jones and McCrae, Assistant Fire Chief Matt Barney ($160,048.44) and Mount ($132,171.63) rounded out the top four in pay.
Outside the fire department, Sooke’s top civil servants – Teresa Sullivan and Brent Blackhall – were next on the list.
Sullivan, who left the district earlier this year, earned $130,460.93 last year. Blackhall, the district’s director of financial services, took home $123,958.18.
On the political side, Sooke Mayor Maja Tait receives an annual remuneration of $20,320.56, while the six councillors each receive $10,160.02. Council members are also entitled to claim expenses.
TOP 10 WAGE EARNERS
1. Cam Norris-Jones, firefighter, $177,193.24
2. Chris McCrea, firefighter, $173,914.31
3. Matt Barney, ast. Fire chief, $160,048.44
4. Kenn Mount, fire chief, $132,171.63
5. Teresa Sullivan, CAO, $130,460.93
6. Brent Blackhall, dir. financial officer, $123,958.18
7. Rob Howatt, dir. development services, $117,831.21
8. Chris Miller, wastewater operator, $101,272.65
9. Dan Skidmore, manager of wastewater, $92,618.20
10. Nicole Lewers, land technician, $89,357.18