Contract negotiations between Sedgwick County firefighters and the county could get nasty.
The firefighters' union says the county has a surplus of $1.3 million, money they say should be used to help bring the department up to state-recommended standards. But they say when negotiations started, the money somehow disappeared.
They have one of the most dangerous jobs in the world; fighting fires, saving lives. Fire Union President Jeff Cowley says, "My passion for the job will always be the same."
Cowley also has passion in the fight to get what he feels is due to him and his co-workers: money.
Cowley says, "We know the money is there." Attorney Steve Bukaty is helping in the fight. He says union members were told by a county official there was a million dollar surplus in the budget. But firefighters were only offered a one-percent pay raise.
Bukaty says they even hired an independent accountant to review the budget, and he came up with the same number.
Bukaty says, "These guys will risk their lives and what they are asking for is to be paid the same and treated the same as people in the state."
Sedgwick County firefighters want a 4% salary increase per year. That would put them in line with firefighters in Johnson County who make more than $45,000 after five years service.
Right now it would take Sedgwick County firefighters 15 years to reach that level. Cowley says, "We are not asking for the world we just want to be treated fairly."
Sedgwick County officials say they work hard to make sure all employees are treated fairly. They hope to resolve this issue with the department soon.
As far as the $1.3 million, county officials say it has to do with perception, and how the numbers are interpreted.