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Washington County expected to hire more EMS staff

April 25, 2007|by KATE S. ALEXANDER

It usually hangs in the hallway of the Washington County Administrative Building, but on Tuesday the framed 2006 County Commission goals were waved before the commissioners, held firmly in the hands of Washington County Fire and Rescue Association President Glenn Fuscsick.

"Goal number five: Develop policies and procedures to initiate the implementation of the Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Master Plan," he read aloud, pressing his finger against the glass of the frame. "For four years, this board has talked about developing a plan. It is almost negligent if you don't fund this at this time."

After some spirited discussion between commissioners and representatives of county Emergency Medical Services, the board narrowly agreed to earmark more than $757,000 to hire nine additional advanced life support technicians now, and up to three more technicians and an assistant chief of EMS in the coming months.

"When you talk about whether or not commissioners support public safety, by agreeing to a $750,000 recurring phase one expense, I would say there is substantial support for public safety," County Administrator Gregory Murray said.

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Commissioners opened discussion on hiring additional EMS personnel last week.

As part of the budget proposal, the fire and rescue department asked commissioners to consider hiring 12 advanced life support technicians and one assistant chief in the coming fiscal year.

After debating the issue for nearly an hour last week, the commissioners decided to postpone reaching a consensus until the board could gather more information.

"I don't mind setting money aside, but I don't know if I am ready to approve nine positions at $44,000 a piece," Commissioner William J. Wivell said last week.

Most of the commissioners agreed Tuesday that additional EMS personnel were needed, but the board was divided on when to hire and how many.

Echoing comments made in earlier discussion, Commissioner Kristin B. Aleshire said, "I have no problem with the staff recommendation of hiring nine immediately, and for a degree of compromise, setting aside money to delve further into the issue later on."

Commissioner Terry Baker was hesitant to advocate spending more than $750,000 of taxpayer money.

"I have the least experience with this, but I need to know in my heart I am doing the right thing for the taxpayers before I decide," he said.

The commissioners agreed to hire the additional personnel now on a tie broken by President John F. Barr.

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