City Council tackles issues at heated meeting - NBC12 - Richmond, VA News

City Council tackles issues at heated meeting

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RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) -

Richmond police and firefighters are the ones who show up when we need help. Now they say they are in need of assistance. They showed up in full force at Monday's city council meeting. They're waging a years-long war for pay raises, voicing their complaints now, while there's still time to approve this year's budget.

Officers and firefighters say it's a state of emergency in Richmond. They're losing staff, so their message to city council: there's no time to wait.

"You have firefighters below the poverty line. I know of one firefighter that's on public assistance," one speaker told the crowd.

Both fire and police employees and those who represent them, spoke clearly and candidly.

"Our officer pay remains frozen at the 2009 level," said Janice Smith with the Fraternal Order of Police.

Officer Ryan Nixon with the Richmond Coalition of Police was also front and center.

"We were under the assumption after we received a raise last year that it would continue. We went 6 years pretty much quiet," he said.

Now they're speaking out. The coalition cites starting officer pay for Henrico police at $43,000 and starting pay in Chesterfield at $40,000. Both well above Richmond's $36,500 starting salary.

"The Richmond Police Department competes with these jurisdictions for the top police officer candidates," Smith said.

Also at Monday night's meeting, city council approved a controversial lease for a non-profit to operate Monroe Park in a public-private partnership.

City Council also approved $50,000 to bring on a consultant to assist in the "Revitalize RVA" projects.

This as the council now prepares for an April 28th meeting to review other budget concerns. Officers like Nixon just want the city to hear their appeal.

"We just hope that when it comes down to it, they will make the necessary changes to the budget," he said.

There were some heated moments too. It started with one person being escorted out of the meeting by police after city leaders say he became disruptive. At other points, there was name-calling from the crowd. Those protesting the Monroe Park deal shouted their disapproval. Council members had to take a recess as a result, but the rants continued.

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