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Chief asks town to raise officers’ salaries

Ingrid Mezo
The Gazette

(5/25) Thurmont Police Chief Greg Eyler asked town officials to consider a salary raise for Thurmont Police Department officers in the fiscal 2007 town budget.

Raising officers’ salaries will aid in recruitment and retention of members, Eyler said during a recent town meeting.

The Thurmont Police Commission completed a salary analysis last year, including current salary ranges for the Thurmont Police Department and other nearby departments. The analysis shows that salaries for upper-level officers in Thurmont are lower than in neighboring Taneytown, Brunswick, Westminster, Frederick city and Frederick County police departments. The police commission also came up with a revised salary analysis that would pay Thurmont police officers salaries closer to what officers in other municipalities are making.

Thurmont Police Commission Chair Tom Iaccarino did not respond to several phone calls by the Gazette’s press time.

‘‘We can’t build a department if people are going to continue to leave," Eyler said. ‘‘To me, it plays a negative role in how the citizens view the Thurmont Police Department."

Eyler, who began his career with the Thurmont Police Department, left Thurmont to join the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office. He rejoined the Thurmont Police Department as its chief in December 2005.

‘‘I left due to no possibility for advancement and the salary was terrible," Eyler said. ‘‘And, I left because I wanted to enhance my career — I wanted to get better training and get promoted."

Current Thurmont salaries are considerably lower than those offered at the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office and Frederick Police Department. Both cover far larger areas than Thurmont but draw from the same pool of applicants.

The difference in pay is most striking at the highest level of office — the chief’s salary. In Thurmont, a police chief makes a minimum of $48,642 and a maximum of $65,529 in a 10-year range, from the time he is hired to the time he retires. A major at the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office makes a minimum of $68,374 and a maximum of $109,152 in a 30-year range.

The chief’s salary in Brunswick, a municipality similar in size to Thurmont, is closest to Thurmont’s salary range, but is $764 higher at the minimum of the range and $1,536 higher at the maximum. According to Frederick County Department of Planning demographic profiles, Thurmont has 5,588 residents, while Brunswick has 5,492.

The cost of training new recruits amounts to roughly $8,000 each, Eyler said.

‘‘It’s not just training," Eyler said. ‘‘We do background investigations, which ties up a person for 30 days or more, and we’re paying a sergeant to do that.

Plus the academy, written tests, we pay all that. Then there are costs for drug testing and physicals, plus all the equipment we buy them. Once they get out of the academy, a lot of times their uniform doesn’t fit the next person we hire."

Thurmont Mayor Martin Burns said in a phone interview Tuesday that he has budgeted for increases at all levels of the Thurmont Police Department, from recruits through the chief.

‘‘I believe that it will be fully funded, supported and approved by the entire board of commissioners," Burns said. ‘‘The chief broached it with me and other members on the board of commissioners, and what I refused to do was just target the police. We have recruitment and retention problems with other town staff, [and have budgeted for increases there also]. The public did not want to get rid of our municipal police department. They said ‘do what you have to do as elected officials.’"

Burns said the total cost to the town would be about $52,000 annually to provide raises for the entire police department, but emphasized that the amount was unofficial until the budget is adopted.

In addition, Burns said that town officials do not yet know what costs for a new police building will be, but that he budgeted $2 million for the project, including a 6 percent interest rate.

‘‘There’s no way it’s going to cost us $2 million and there’s no way we’re paying 6 percent," Burns said. ‘‘We’re expecting to pay much less than that."

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