Chief Rick Sieberg, left, and Lt. Joshua Webb of the Gardiner Fire Department examine airbags Thursday that are carried aboard the city’s fire trucks, at the Gardiner Fire Station at 6 Church St. The city’s firefighters are expected to get about a 15% increase in their base pay beginning July 1 after singing a new contract this week. Jessica Lowell/Kennebec Journal

GARDINER — In a contract geared to make the compensation for the Gardiner Fire Department competitive in central Maine, city firefighters are expected to get about a 15% increase in their base pay beginning July 1.

The move is expected to help the department recruit and retain firefighters, who are also either paramedics or emergency medical technicians for the Gardiner Ambulance Service.

“Retention is the bigger concern for us,” Joshua Johnson, a captain with the Fire Department, said. “In this state, as we know, paramedics are becoming few and further between. Any department that’s willing to pay well has a higher likelihood of poaching paramedics. You have a huge risk if you let your pay get behind.”

Following the contract signing Thursday, City Manager Andrew Carlton said Gardiner has among the most professional firefighters in the area, and city officials want to keep them.

“We recognize the service the city provides is not just for the city of Gardiner. It’s for upwards of 27,000 people in southern Kennebec County,” Carlton said. “We want to keep them here in Gardiner, and part of that is paying a competitive wage.”

Earlier this month, city officials also signed a contract with the Gardiner Police Officers Association, increasing salaries for police officers an average of 16%.


The Gardiner Fire Department has mutual aid and automatic aid agreements with many communities in the area. Gardiner Ambulance serves Gardiner, Farmingdale, Litchfield, Pittston, Randolph, Richmond, West Gardiner and half of Chelsea.

Rick Sieberg, chief of the Gardiner Fire Department and Ambulance Service, said city officials have been working to keep the department staffed.

“We worked really hard to get our Fire Department up where it needs to be,” Sieberg said.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, wages for firefighters and paramedics spiked for reasons Sieberg said he does not fully understand. Because the firefighters were already under contract, it was hard to make changes to meet market demands and the inflation spikes over the past year or so.

“This isn’t a reflection on the city not doing their due diligence, (which) they did,” Sieberg said. “I don’t even know how to explain it.”

Johnson said the two-year contract contains a provision for minimum staffing, which ensures the department can serve its communities safely.


The contract also offers a small amount of earned time off to new recruits. Until now, that had not been available.

“If you’re a new dad or a new mom and you come to work here and something comes up, there was no way to be available to go unless you could swap with another employee,” Johnson said, noting this offers flexibility.

Mayor Patricia Hart said city councilors are aware that the prevailing wages for police, fire and ambulance workers have been increasing quickly.

“This was an important investment to maintain the force,” Hart said.

Related Headlines

Comments are no longer available on this story