If you are experiencing a medical emergency and need an ambulance, or call 911 for the police, there’s an expectation that professional, qualified personnel will respond.
The safety of Van Buren County citizens is a primary responsibility of elected officials of the county. In the past few years, recruiting and retaining safety personnel and first-responders has been a growing concern.
When committee A of the Van Buren Commission met to discuss the county budget, a primary topic was the salaries of county employees. Committee chair Will Maxwell presented to the assembled group which included members of the community.
A recurring focus of discussion was the immediate need to address the salaries of emergency services personnel.
“We need to do something now,” Maxwell declared with a sense of urgency.
His statement was verified by Tiwanna Bricker, director of EMS services.
“Other counties are much more appealing as far as salaries and benefits,” said Bricker. “I have had a paramedic and medic position open for a long time.”
Comparative salary rates were provided from departments around the area to emphasize the salary gap that has been a catalyst for individuals to seek employment outside of the county. Van Buren County wages were noted as significantly less than comparative positions in neighboring counties.
“For some of the positions, we can’t just hire anyone,” said Maxwell. “They have to have a specialty license such as the paramedics.”
The Sheriff's Department has not been immune to the troubles of hiring and retaining staff. The topic was recently broached at a district commissioners meeting at Cedar Grove Community Center. Sheriff Carter shared insight about some of the obstacles.
“Some of the people have been with the department a long time and have not had any increase,” said Carter. “The truth is that one can make more at a fast food place, and these people are putting their life on the line.” Carter was present at the budget meeting to provide further input regarding the need to reevaluate the salaries offered to deputies and corrections officers.
Elected positions have state-mandated minimum salaries ranging between $60,000 and $75,000. All county positions were given consideration for a salary adjustment, with emphasis placed on emergency response and law enforcement personnel.
A number of calculations and conditions were discussed as formulas to make adjustments to current employee salaries with projected wage scale increments.
Proposed changes will need to be evaluated for fiscal viability within the budget and approved by vote.