Wimpy made the request at the BOC work session earlier this month. His reason, he said is that it is becoming increasingly difficult to hire and keep personnel, especially paramedics and EMTs. Currently, the department has seven vacancies and is managing to cover most shifts with part-timers.
“The urgency is,” he told the board, “that we can’t staff our ambulances.”
When no one made a motion to either approve or deny the proposal, Board Chair John Raber obliged.
“They are asking to raise the ambulance rate $150 a call, and that still puts us below what other counties charge,” he said.
Commissioners had their own reasons for opposing the move. District 3 Commissioner Clarence Stowers said pay increases should be part of the budget process and should have been addressed when the budget was being put together back in the spring and summer.
“I don’t want to set a precedent of ‘if you raise fees you can give employees a raise,’” he said.
“We’re not asking to go above any other county employee’s pay, we’re just trying to equal up. When you compare us to the sheriff’s office, we’re below them for the same rank, and we have to be double certified, as firefighters and EMS,” Wimpy said.
County Manager Stan Kelley told Stowers he understood his concern, but said he was the reason it was not brought up earlier in the year.
“David’s been telling me this for some time and I’ve been putting him off,” he said. “But now he’s convinced me it’s critical.”
“I think we need to address a raise through taxes, not fees,” Stowers responded. “There are all kinds of ways to set this up—fire districts ... all kinds of ways. We are struggling because we have exempted so many people from property taxes. Only 46 or 48 percent of people in the county pay taxes.”
District 2 Commissioner Tim Bowden said that although he recognized the need, and thought Wimpy’s plan was “better than raising taxes,” he thought it best to leave the decision to the board that would be taking office in January.”
“If you throw this off to the next county commission you’re abdicating your position. We were elected to make these decisions and we need to make them until we step down,” Raber said. But his comment did not sway the board and his motion died for lack of a second.
Wimpy was disappointed, but not overly surprised.
“I’m not mad, but I was hoping it would go through. I’ve always got concerns about losing personnel and now I’ll just be a little more concerned,” he said.
Kelley is also concerned, partly because come January, part time personnel must be provided with medical benefits. That cost, he said, is not in the budget.
“We are looking at all the options—giving medical benefits to part timers who work 30 or more hours, cutting hours and possibly having to hire more part timers, or paying the fine if we don’t provide benefits. We’re doing a cost/benefits analysis, and hope to present it to the new board in January—February at the latest.”