In Aug. 12 IssueBy Greg WellsTimes Journal Managing Editor
Over three hours of meeting at the Russell County Ambulance Board could be summed up by repeated comments from the board, typified in Chairman James Gray's "I know the pay per hour may not be up to speed compared to other counties' but the benefits here are far and away better than anything I've ever seen."
The board went through the ambulance service employee handbook page by page during the marathon meeting.
The maximum vacation days were cut from five weeks to four weeks and there was extensive discussion but no decision on cutting the provisions allowing carry-over of hundreds of hours comp-time and sick days yearly.
Also discussed was cutting back on the 100 percent payment for employee healthcare insurance, including vision and dental, as well as the 75 percent payment by the service for employee's family coverage.
The board started the evening by setting a pay scale, which set a base pay and regular pay increases for Emergency Medical Technicians on staff and they approved instigating an employee evaluation program, with Gray insisting that evaluations get underway immediately.
The first thing addressed though was the financial report, with the board being told that the loss figures for July were not as bad as they appeared, since the expenditure of of $54,000 for equipment was covered by a $53,000 grant deposited the previous month.
With that, the service lost over $2,500 for their first fiscal month this year, Gray pointed out. He added that the 911 dispatch service, which remains part of the ambulance service budget, did not have any income in that month because payments from state collected fees are not made monthly.
The board ordered pay scale investigations for paramedics, as well as job descriptions for all positions to be added to the employee handbook.
The board did not set the tax rate, as all of the members said they were unclear about what the rates meant, given that a drop in the assessed value of real property in the county had resulted in the "compensating rate" being higher than the present rate by 0.2 percent.
The board asked that someone from the Property Valuation Administrator's Office be asked for guidance on the matter before they voted to set the rate.
The board also approved notices being sent to the county, cities and the employees of the dispatch center about the termination of the interlocal agreement, in order to be sure that notification regarding Cobra and other employee benefits would comply with state and federal law if the employees were laid off at the end of the agreement, in October.
There was an executive session at the conclusion of the meeting, to discuss personnel matters, but not for discussion of a lawsuit filed filed against the board last week.